Yes, I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.
Lisa over at Privilege wrote a lovely bit about taking care of your silver, and it got me thinking about my own and why, in this strange age of recession and austerity, it is still so important to me.
I have a walnut chest of silver flatware. Much of it is my own sterling wedding pattern, Kirk Repousse. Repousse is a very old pattern, and quite ornate; some would say it is a pattern for frilly girls, which I am not. But my great-aunt took me to Bromberg's when I was 16 or so and told me to pick out a pattern, and that is what I chose. (We can talk about how strange an activity that is for a teenager some other time.) When we were creating a wedding registry, I almost felt a fool for asking for such a seemingly frivolous thing. But I am glad I did.
Much of the silver chest is filled with the silver plate that my mom gave me for my first post-college Christmas. It's very 1930s, with a smooth cluster of fruit on the handles, and it is what we use to stir our coffee and spread peanut butter on toast. On the rare nights that we can sit down to dinner together, I like its gleam on our table.
The rest of our silver is made up of bits and bobs from my family -- a serving spoon from a great-grandmother, some delicate demitasse spoons from another, a meat fork that came from Scotland a hundred years ago. There's a teeny deep-bowled baby spoon, and bunch of pearl-handled pickle forks whose origin is unknown, and they grace our table for every party.
I grew up polishing my mother's silver and laying it out for special dinners. Even though we always ate with a motley assemblage of old family sterling, it was the special service -- her wedding pattern, Gorham Greenbriar -- that got trotted out for holidays and anniversaries and whenever she wanted to put on the dog. For Christmas Eve dinner, I pulled out the tub of Wright's and a bunch of old dishcloths, and got to work. She may have had to bribe me once or twice; I seem to remember brokering a "nickel per piece" deal. I hope she didn't pay me.
As the holidays approach, I am thinking about our silver more. This is our first married Christmas, although it certainly isn't our first Christmas together. But it is our first as a family, with a paper from the Commonwealth of Virginia to show for it. My husband did not grow up with silver, and to him, I think it is a bit of an extravagance, not to say a pain when it comes to washing the dishes. But to me, it is so much more. It is every Christmas and graduation dinner, and bowls of ice cream eaten with old engraved grapefruit spoons, and a sparkly signal that something big is happening. And this year, to me it means the beginning of something wholly our own: our new family, with a new, very old pattern to show for it.