They went to Hawaii in 1959. My dad had a super-super-super secret job to do for the DOD. My mom didn’t like it there. She missed her kids and she didn’t like the climate. But it was only 3 months and she had her sewing machine. She made my little brother luau shirts and she made school dresses for me. I think my dad had imagined it as a honeymoon. I have no idea what it actually turned out to be for them. They came home on an ocean liner, the Orsova, a luxurious British ship. My mom loved that part, I know. She loved being invited to eat at the captain’s table. She liked being on the ocean.
In Hawaii, my dad bought my mom beautiful brocade fabrics from Japan, from which she made dresses. One of his co-workers, a young man from India, returned home and sent my mother a gorgeous wedding sari. Another colleague, from Japan, sent my mom an entire set of her favorite china — Noritake in the Bessie pattern. “This is for you someday,” she said to me as we opened it. I was seven. It was bewildering. The box in which it came finally ended up in the trash when I packed to move to Colorado last summer!
I didn’t like it. My taste was far more garish and colorful, but there it was. The “good china” which was brought out for holidays and set on a red tablecloth at Christmas along with the “crystal.” I thought the china was bland and cold, but the crystal I liked. It was baroque and looked like ice. My grandmother had the same pattern. “Someday you’ll have all the crystal. Mine and your grandmothers.” Well, OK, but I was still only 7.
When she had the chance to get another piece — a gravy boat! A salad bowl! She was actually happy and excited about it. In all honesty, I could never understand it, and these things never made her happy in the long term. This left me with a serious doubt about the usefulness of good china.
I left the “good china” behind in my house in San Diego as a wedding present for the kids who bought the house. I’d known the girl most of her life. She was the daughter of my next door neighbor. I accidentally left the silver-plate, too, including my baby-spoon, but maybe they had a baby?
The crystal was boxed up by professional movers in Montana in 1996 after my mom died and shipped to me. It’s here, in my garage, in the same boxes. Today, out of curiosity (since I don’t even have a dining room table and I’m not likely to have a big dinner in my house because of that) I looked on eBay to see what prices the crystal was getting.
A set of plain old glasses at Walmart is fetching about the same price as some sellers are asking — others are asking quite a bit more. I was stunned at the sheer quantity. I guess a lot of us had mothers who bought “good china” and “good crystal” for their daughters (and themselves). Maybe growing up in the depression made those things more interesting — Fostoria is a depression-era American crystal manufacturer. I could imagine my mom wishing she could have something like that someday. She sold the crystal at Bylund’s jewelry shop in Hardin, Montana where she worked while she was in high school and during summers when she was in college. Maybe she got to know these things when she went to Billings for college and worked as a housekeeper for a wealthy woman to earn room and board and “a little something for the folks.” I have the letters. Sometimes she was able to send them a dollar, not like today’s dollar, though. It was a useful amount of money back in 1942. And, they were very, very poor.
As I said, I like the crystal. Maybe if I had anywhere to put it, I’d open the boxes.