My Most Cherished Material PossessionA dear friend recently asked me:
What is your most cherished material possession? (Could be something you have currently, or had in the past.)
I thought for a moment about what to choose, how best to respond. I am awfully fond of and rather attached to my iDevices, which is always more then a little bit amusing to me because I was the epitome of a non-technology girl a few years ago. I didn't even own a cellphone or a computer of my own until after I was married (8 years ago). Now, however, they are a more then essential part of my every day life. I should join a support group, really. My name is _____ and I am an iDevice addict.
Then there is my camera, words can not begin to express how much I adore my camera. I have always loved photography and have "an eye" for it, or so I'm told. Whatever dinky excuse I had for a camera, has always been taken with me everywhere. Capturing hundreds, probably thousands of shots of everything and nothing. It sometimes drives my friends a little batty. Though I am far from a professional photographer I was recently gifted with a not at all inexpensive Canon EOS 60D. *sighs happily* Yes, I am well aware of how lucky I am to have such a beautiful piece of equipment with which to record moments and memories, believe me.
There are also a few other things I suppose I could have named: cherished books, valued photographs, my journal ... But upon a brief moment of reflection I realized that while I love, adore and value all of these material items they are all, for the most part anyways, replaceable. (The journal would be difficult, but the thoughts and memories are still lurking somewhere in the recesses of my mind) So then, what one physical item did I own that had such value that it was not replaceable for me?
Not the answer you were expecting was it? Lets be honest, if you know me at all you wouldn't really think of me as a "china" type of girl. A klutz to the core and a feminine tomboy (as my mother likes to put it) delicate china and I don't really seem like the best of "fits". Both of my iDevices and their uniquely mosaic patterned screens bear testament to my clumsiness. Also, I am not really one for anything too fussy, or too patterned or too girly; to be completely forthright I hate almost ever other single china pattern I have ever seen - but I ADORE this one.
It is a very simple, very pretty pattern - nothing overly ostentatious. Delicate pale pink flowers, with tiny blue sprays of buds and slightly trailing stems of leaves. I have no way to accurately describe it. It is a set of Royal Grafton Fine Bone China, made in England, the patterns name being: Summer Melody. I'm sure if you were to google it there would be a picture.
I have the full set, everything you could ever want. I don't know all the correct names for all the pieces but it includes the following and more: 12 place settings of dinner plates, soup bowls, salad plates, dessert/bread plates, 12 tea cups, 12 coffee cups (yes there is a difference and the coffee cup is by far my favourite), matching tea and coffee pots (yes the coffee pot is also my preference above the tea pot), serving dishes with covers, platters, a gravy boat, a soup tureen and the most adorable pair of salt and pepper shakers you have ever seen in your life. Yes, really they are, take my word for it!
Okay, so I love my china - so what? Why is that my most cherished material possession? Couldn't I also just replace it, like I could my other favoured possessions, were something to happen? NO. Not really, actually not at all - it's irreplaceable in my mind. Aside from the fact that it is a discontinued pattern, it is the memories associated with said set of China that makes it supremely valuable to me.
To say I had a troubled childhood is being more then kind. There are not many good memories, and not many actual possessions which survived to today. This china is one of those things.
It was a gift that my father, an abusive alcoholic who often thought material items could make up for "things", purchased for my mother while we were living in Germany. I won't go into the details of what happened - but it necessitated a large repayment in his mind. Thus the china and a beautiful pine shrank to house it was hastily purchased.For the rest of my childhood the cabinet full of china was an ever present fixture.
We moved back to Canada from Germany and it all made it in one piece, though a whole other crate of possessions went mysteriously missing.
We lived for a year in abject poverty, I'm talking no running water, no electricity, the tiniest of shacks to live in (I will provide pictures if you doubt me), in the "bush" in northern Ontario - but the china and the cupboard were there and had a place of honour. They were also the first things moved into the house my father was building once it had a roof and windows in place.
It was only ever brought out on special occasions ... I remember large family dinners with juicy roast beef and garlic mashed potatoes, tender sweet carrots, savoury gravy and the yummiest Yorkshire puddings. (It's still my favourite meal to this day!) These memories, of relatives visiting, of laughter and of having a more then completely satiated tummy are amongst some of the happiest I have.
When things finally came to a head, and it became absolutely necessary for my mother to leave my father, lest our lives be ended. We did not take almost anything. One day, with the help of some close friends we quickly packed (more like threw things into bags and suitcases) what we needed and fled. My mother was not going to take the china, but someone convinced her, a friend brought a truck and some boxes and it was the one thing that was carefully and lovingly packed up.
When even having moved into the small town nearby became not enough and we again needed to flee for our safety, this time across the country to another province, the china went with us. A small car, packed to the brim, no room to even move but it was there, pulled on a trailer that was probably far too heavy for the vehicle in question.
Our lives after we fled were less then ideal. My mother often had to work 2 or 3 jobs. We required the support of social assistance and low income housing. There was almost never enough money, or food, or clothing even. The china, she would say, was our ace in the hole. If we needed to, she would sell it and we would survive. She almost did, at least a half a dozen times she began to make inquiries into it's value and how to go about marketing it, in order to help supplement our finances, but always found a way to "soldier on" without doings so. (I'm not really convinced that it would have been worth that much anyways).
In time, after several more moves, things got better. The china, and it's now somewhat yellowing pine shrank was always there. It managed to make it across Canada a few more times without a single piece being broken, well, almost. After it's last move, to my mother's current home, my younger brother dropped something on one of the coffee cups and it now has a chunk missing - but we have also have said chunk.
Somewhere along the way, a running inside family joke developed about the china and it's value as an heirloom to our family. It was said that I would get it one day because in the past, the good china always went to the eldest daughter, and the land to the son - the other children were screwed, lol. We had not land to speak of, so my brother was out of luck there, and my sister, being the middle child was the one who would be "screwed", but there was china all that mattered was it would be mine. (Trust me, it's funnier if you know my family.)
The thing is, it was always a joke, and though I adore it - I never actually expected to get it, until of course at a time in the future when my mother, who is still quite young, would one day passed away. However, a few years ago, shortly after I was married, my mother surprised me by actually giving it to me. She came out for a visit, with all these puzzling boxes - especially puzzling because it was to be a short visit and she had to drive across two provinces, almost 14 hours to get here - during the winter no less. It was the china, it had once again made a trek across the country, now to reside in my home.
I don't have the china cabinet, though she has offered it to me, but I really don't have a place for it in my house. For the china, however, room was made in the cupboards with great alacrity. A foodie and cook at heart, I have more then my fair share of "valuable" kitchen gadgets - they were quickly dispatched to shelves in the ba
Now I take it out on special occasions, and large gatherings with friends and family. We too consume dinners of juicy roast beef and garlic mashed potatoes, tender sweet carrots, savoury gravy and the yummiest Yorkshire puddings - during evenings filled with laughter and are creating some of my new happiest of memories. Well, happy for me anyways, I think everyone else is slightly terrified by my constant threats of how I will cut their heart out with a spoon if they damage said dinnerware in any way. (Why a spoon? "Because it's dull you idiot, it will hurt more").
So there you have it, the china, MY CHINA. It's one of our only family "heirlooms" and my most cherished material possession.