(Far left -Diane, Second from left - Emma, Far right - Andrea)
This blog marks our multi-generational attempt to share a love of passing on traditions as related to all things china, crystal, and silver through tablescaping. We would LOVE to hear from you!
First Generation - Diane:
I am truly the first generation in this family to be obsessed with tablescapes. My mother, who loved beautiful things, did not have a passion for china, crystal and silver. I lived in a very small town, until I was eleven and I still remember my next door neighbor's Moss Rose china and stunning sterling coffee and tea service.
When I lived in that town, I was fortunate to have had several older ladies who invited me into their homes often and I was always interested in their dining rooms! I can still describe the chandeliers and tablecloths and how the furniture was arranged. I remembered my grandmother's silverplate, which had been put away after her death.
She died when I was twelve, but I always thought about how pretty it was and my aunt gave it all to me, after I married. I guess that I was the only grandchild who ever mentioned my love for those beautiful patterns. Yes, I am the first generation, but I am sure that I will not be the last - my daughter and granddaughters already are passionate about tablescaping. My daughter has an incredible eye for the finer things and the granddaughters both have silver flatware collections to which I add every Christmas. Yes, I think that the legacy is safe and our family will have many more generations of collectors!
Second Generation - Andrea:
Unlike my mother, I had the good fortune to attend DAR luncheons and ladies' teas from an early age. I was allowed to play in the kitchen. Judging from the above picture, I was interested in china and silver very early on! My mom let me pull out the good stuff and enjoy it! Antique shows featured prominently even in my childhood. I have so many collections I could not possibly list them all. Loving old things and having a passion for history, my mother eventually delved into genealogy, sharing with me her findings. While it was exciting to rediscover all of our ancestors who first came to the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries, I regret that the generations in the middle so carelessly lost family traditions and heirlooms. (There are some rather scandalous stories in our family about how things disappeared through the years, and while painful, they are quite entertaining!)
Emma visiting STT in 2008
I should also mention that attending boarding school at St. Timothy's School in Maryland played a reinforcing role in my love of tradition. Please note, my parents reluctantly sent me off at my own request, God bless them. While I have had a life full of amazing adventures all over the world, life at St. Timothy's has been the second most fantastic experience of my life. (Becoming a mother is still in first place.) The student experience there is rich with traditions and relationship-building aside from the stellar academics, arts, and athletics. Regardless of the commitment to daily activities, there was always a very definite pause to come together and dine as a family. In the dining hall, the ceilings were at least 20' tall, round tables where students and teachers sat together, and students had rotating duties of bringing the food out to serve. There we sat, hair thrown up haphazardly in uniforms that were often wrinkled, and dined. No lunch trays could be found. No plastic or melamine of any kind. Seating rotated throughout the year. Teachers, students, dorm parents, their children, random visitors, other staff all thrown together to break bread. International, multilingual, multiethnic. What a blessing that was to me, much more than I realized at the time. I am still in touch with every member of our senior class and with many, many more alumnae from fifty years ago until the present. When I go back to the school now as an on-again, off-again board member and random visitor, I love to attend lunch and sit with the girls and dine. (And there are more dining stories you'll hear later, such as the famous crêpes made by our headmaster and his wife at their house on campus when they would host us all for breakfast!)
In that most of our family heirlooms, (dishes and sterling included), disappeared in my grandmother's generation or even before, I began a very deliberate process of collecting things in high school to enjoy in adulthood and to pass down. (This includes collecting experiences, such as traveling.) Stephanie, my life-long best friend and former St. Tim's roommate, and I exchanged Holiday Lenox china in high school at birthdays and Christmas. Even as boarding school gals and poor college students, she in Massachusetts and I in Georgia, we each had a stash in our dorm rooms of china and crystal to use for Ramen Noodles and Diet Cokes. I remember visiting her at Boston College our junior year, having tea and scones, watching "The Palm Beach Story" among the typical clothing and textbook chaos. We also scraped together all of our cash and had a late-night dessert at the Ritz. It was by far the most expensive and most tasty sorbet I had ever had until I moved to France later that year. (There is a little restaurant in Paris called the Procope, perhaps the oldest restaurant in Paris, that beat the Ritz in price and in taste.)
No matter what your condition or mood, or how many fast food meals a lack of time necessitates, taking the time to truly dine is a small luxury that I refuse to do without. For my family and me, that can simply mean sitting at the kitchen table with our lovely Blue Willow china, Lady Anne crystal tumblers, and Reed and Barton stainless eating hamburgers, baked beans, and chips with a side of fruit. (I wash my Lady Anne crystal in the dishwasher. Clean-up is NOT labor intensive for every day.) There is always a familiar glass ramekin filled with fruit or yogurt or peanut butter for things such as apples or pretzels. Things match. There is an organization to the dining process. No paper plates. No disposable cups. We set the table together. We clear the dishes together. We talk. By honoring yourself and others by dining with a deliberately laid table and a careful menu, you are able to reconnect with others in a way that can't be duplicated. You are expressing how special they are to you, and when alone, how special you are to yourself.
Third Generation - Emma:
Like my mother, I have been very fortunate to be exposed to crystal, silver, china, different foods, and different places from a very young age. When I was five years old, my mom asked me to pick out a silver pattern. I chose Old Orange Blossom, and she said that was too expensive and too rare. (Apparently, I had pretty good taste for a five year old.) I ended up choosing Francis I. I am in seventh grade, and I still love it. Saying that, I have always had a passion for silver, crystal, and china that most children my age do not have. Tablescaping, however, I just did not understand until about two weeks ago. I thought my mother and grandmother were absolutely crazy until I was offered a chance to do my own table. I discovered it is much more fun that way! So, I rearranged combinations for a long while, seeing how fun tablescaping was for the first time. When I was finally done, my grandmother and I had hot chocolate in mugs from the table I set. I said, "This is a lot more fun than I imagined!" And it is.
I do not have a favorite element of tablescaping but rather favorite styles. I usually like china that is simple and elegant, not too busy. I like china that is lighter in color, sometimes modern, but often old-fashioned. I like many styles of crystal, but my favorite yet is my mother's Lady Anne crystal that we use every day. I love silver that is simple and elegant, too, although I don't mind if my silver is busy. :) A nice detail I love about silver is when the decoration continues from the front to the back. I usually like white tablecloths, but I like red, blue, or pale yellow, too. I like tablecloths to have some kind of decoration on them. In terms of tables, I think I will work with round ones that seat four, but I am fond of rectangle tables that seat six or eight, also. In napkins, one thing I just adore is if the decoration in the tablecloth matches the color of the napkins. I like most other decorations, too, [candles, confetti, etc.].
As the third generation in my family to adore silver, crystal, and china, I feel lucky I have people to talk about it with, and that I have people who express the same love for it as I do.
Christmas pics from 2008, when I was 10. One of my presents was a Francis I scalloped potato server! It was so pretty!
Thank you for stopping by and joining in all the fun!
- Diane, Andrea, and Emma