When I set the table for dinner guests the other day, I used my good china and crystal and sterling. It was not a formal dinner. No dinner can remotely be called formal if Jell-O is on the menu, the hostess is trotting around in her bare feet, and cats are fighting under the table. I just happen to enjoy setting a pretty table, even if it requires a lot of washing and drying by hand afterwards. I know my guests appreciate the pampering, and food, even Jell-O, just tastes better. To me, it's worth it.
When I was growing up, my mother rarely used her best stuff when she had guests for dinner. Instead, she dragged out her mother-in-law's old china, a very meh Noritake pattern of pink roses climbing a trellis. I can only remember twice, Mom setting the table with her good Lennox china, and one of those times was because I asked her to. The pattern is Tuxedo, a classic Lennox design that is beautiful in its simplicity. So, no surprise when I chose Tuxedo when I was planning my wedding.
Eventually, my mother gave me her Lennox pieces. Her collection is 63 years old and because it was hardly ever used, every plate and cup looks brand new. What's the point of having nice things if you aren't going to use them? Since my kids were small, they have dined on fine china, sipped milk from crystal, and speared peas with the heirloom silver. They may not have understood what the fuss was about, but I noticed they minded their manners better whenever I hauled out the good stuff.
My mother has a beautiful antique cup and saucer I gave her one Christmas for a display piece. Because she's so afraid the maids, who come every other week to clean, will break it, she keeps it stashed away in a box in a dresser. There are times I'm sorry I didn't keep the thing for myself, because I guarantee you in my house, it would be out where it could be seen and admired. I may not have maids with dusters, but I do have cats with long tails.
One of these days, I will inherit the Noritake. And I betcha, with just the right tablescape, I can make those pink roses look pretty.
Lenox Tuxedo: http://www.antiquehelper.com/item/295571
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