Friday, May 7, 2010

Reminiscences & Inheritances

This beautiful couple is Betty Jean and Thomas Homer, my maternal grandparents. They were married on June 12, 1946 in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. My grandmother, Betty, was born on January 25, 1927 and passed away on December 13, 2003 after suffering a stroke. She attended three funerals in the space of two weeks; that of her oldest daughter's boyfriend who passed away from cancer, that of my paternal grandfather, and then her own. My grandfather, Homer, was born on December 28, 1927 and celebrated his 82nd birthday last December.

Grandma's death was very unexpected. She was healthy and active, busy with church service and family and taking care of Grandpa. As he's gotten older, his health has declined and it has been difficult to see him struggle with losing his independence. Due to a condition called macular degeneration, he started to lose his sight at about age 18 (I know Wiki says that it happens later in life, but his is an inherited condition that begins in early adulthood). Nevertheless, he remained independent and found ways to work around his vision loss. The only thing he gave up because of it was his driver's license. But due to recent difficulties in his health, he has finally given up his home and moved to an assisted living center.

I'm not sure when this picture was taken, but judging by the bouquet she is holding I would hazard a guess that it was at the reception held for my grandparents on the day after their wedding. Isn't my Grandma beautiful? She reminds me a little bit of my mom here. And just look at those legs! I inherited those legs. I also inherited my beautiful, no plucking, sculpting or shaping required, zero maintenance, wash-and-wear eyebrows from this delightful Grandma of mine. Unfortunately, I also got her flat backside.

I was so blessed to live near to my grandparents growing up. My grandparents made all of their grandchildren feel like they were the favorite, but I know that I was the true favorite. I'm the oldest grandchild, after all. I have so many special memories of these grandparents. I grew up with five brothers and sisters and when the noise and confusion grew to be too much, I could always go and stay at my grandparents'. I loved to go and sleep over on Friday nights. My grandma would let me have what she called 'a bowl of mush' (cold cereal) for dinner and I could spend time all by myself in the quiet of their house watching TV or reading or playing. It was such a treat to spend time at their house.

With my grandma's death in 2003, came the inevitable beginning of the dividing up of possessions. Grandpa gave away all of her clothes and then divided up the jewelry. As the oldest grandchild, I was allowed first pick from her jewelry box. I chose a lovely emerald cut garnet ring. You see, she and I are both January girls. I loved that we shared carnations as our flower and garnets as our birthstone and I love that I have her garnet ring. I love the deep red color of the stone and the simple elegance of the ring.

My Grandpa always went by his middle name, Homer. His mother knew a boy named Homer and considered him a kind and good person, so that's what my Grandpa went by. Considering the old-fashioned names of some of his other siblings (like Newell, Otis and Thora), I think he probably got off easy. As I mentioned, Grandpa is very independent. He never depended on anyone for anything. Even as his vision has deteriorated to nearly non-existent, he still reads menus and newspapers for himself. I think I got a little bit of his determination and independence. I also got his fair skin, freckles and blue eyes (although my dad has blue eyes too, so that might have something to do with it). I also inherited his thriftiness and love of getting a good deal.

Now that Grandpa has moved to an assisted living center, his house needs cleaning out and things need distributing. My grandparents really kept an orderly home. They didn't hoard and there wasn't junk all over the place. Grandma was an excellent housekeeper and the rooms and living spaces were not just neat and tidy, but clean. She would routinely wash walls, and there was never a speck of dust or a fingerprint anywhere. Not only that, the storage spaces and cabinets and closets were also neat and tidy. But there are still many possessions to distribute.

A few weeks ago my mom called and said my Grandpa wanted to know if I wanted my Grandma's china. He felt that as the oldest grandchild, I should be offered the dishes. He knew what a special love I have for my Grandma, for both of them, and I was touched and honored. When I was married, I never registered for China. We were starting off so poor that I felt it frivolous to request such expensive gifts when basic necessities would be in short supply. Yesterday I went to visit my Grandpa in his new home and stopped by to get the china from his old home. I picked up a few other things that I will show you over the next while, but since this post is already really long, I'll just show the china for now.

The pattern is Pasedena 6311 by Noritake. I reckon that this set is about 45 years old. It is so beautiful and simply elegant, not to mention in excellent condition. There are eight of each of the plates (dinner, breakfast/salad and bread and butter), eight of the small fruit/dessert bowls, seven of the lugged cereal bowls (left-hand side), an oval serving platter and an oval serving dish. Aside from the missing cereal bowl, there is only one little chip on one of the breakfast/salad plates. The white gold plating on the rims is completely in tact on every piece, as is the beautiful rosebud. What an amazing and precious inheritance.

The Little Bugs wanted to know if we were going to eat off these dishes. Most definitely! What is the point of having something so beautiful, if we're not going to use them? I think Sunday dinners will be served on the new china from now on. Mr. Bug was surprised to find that the china is from the late 1960's. He said it looks like new and might be something you could find today. I agree; the pattern is very timeless.

Over the past few weeks, I've been so excited about sharing this new treasure with you. Some of the blogs I follow have owners who collect vintage items and post about them on Mondays or Thursdays. I wondered, though, what does vintage really mean? Do I have some vintage china and could I be part of the cool kids who post about their vintage treasures? I looked it up.

The correct usage of the word vintage is to identify the year when a wine was made. Since the term has been hijacked and abused for the sole purpose of describing and hocking other non-wine related items, it is rather meaningless and can pretty much be used the way anyone wishes. The use of the word vintage most often says the owner doesn't know anything about an item.

To use the word correctly, as with wine, it must be used with a year. As in:

My car is vintage 1996.
My computer is vintage 2010.
This WWII uniform item is vintage 1943.

Since I don't know the exact year the china was produced (sometime between 1965 and 1970, I'd wager), I can't correctly identify this as 'vintage 1965 china.'

In common use the undated term describes something that is old enough to be in fashion again. Thus since 1970's styles are in fashion again, they are 'vintage.' 1980's styles haven't yet been resuscitated; all they are is 'out of date.' At this point they haven't made it to the 'vintage' category. Put simply, a vintage item is defined as having an enduring appeal.

So, if I were to apply the term in common use, I could say I've got some pretty amazing vintage china.

I also wondered what the difference is between vintage and antique? From Wikipedia: An antique is an old collectible item. It is collected or desirable because of its age, rarity, condition, utility, or other unique features. It is an object that represents a previous era in human society.

Antiques are usually objects which show some degree of craftsmanship, or a certain attention to design such as a desk or the early automobile. They are bought at antique shops, or passed down as an estate. Some valuable antiques can be bought from antique dealers and auction services or purchased online through websites and online auctions.

The definition of
antique varies from source to source, product to product, and year to year. However, some time-tested definitions of antique deserve consideration, such as the following:

1. An item which is at least 50 to 100 years old and is collected or desirable due to rarity, condition, utility, or some other unique feature. Motor vehicles, power tools and other items subject to vigorous use in contrast, may be considered
antiques in the U.S. if older than 25 years, and some electronic gadgets of more recent vintage may be considered antiques.

2. Any piece of furniture or decorative object or the like produced in a former period and valuable because of its beauty or rarity.

The definition of antique is rather broad. Based upon the second part of the definition, valuable because of its beauty definitely applies here. If nothing else, in a few more years, my china will definitely be antique.

Though vintage or antique leave room for question, the term heirloom is a perfect fit. Indeed, my china is a valued possession passed down in a family through succeeding generations.

I'm not much of a fan of vintage or antique because so often pieces are missing and irreplaceable. I love to have a complete and matching set. I've been Googling and found Replacements, Ltd., whose motto is, We replace the irreplaceable!® I'm excited to report that they have lots of pieces for my china set. At the very least, I can get one more cereal bowl to complete my eight-piece set. I'm considering expanding the set to twelve settings and there are a few serving pieces I'd like to add, like the gravy boat with attached underplate, one or two more oval serving platters and the round covered serving dish. I've also admired the coffee pot with lid and the creamer and sugar bowl, although we don't drink coffee. Perhaps I can find a salt and pepper shaker as well. There are some pretty amazing possibilities here. This is definitely vintage I can do!


Kerri said...

What a great tribute to your grandparents. You'll treasure these recorded memories (and your "new" china forever. Aren't grandparents wonderful?

Wanda said...

Your grandmother and my mother have the same name, Betty Jean! Your grandmother's china looks exactly like china that my dad bought my mother in Japan around 1959. I am going to ck the name...I know it's Noritake!Oh I loved reading about your grandparents and seeing their pictures! Beautiful tribute. Enjoy those dishes!

Jennifer Lovell said...

I really enjoyed reading about your grandparents and your special feelings about them. It made me want to identify which attributes I inherited from each of my grandparents, of which I have just 1 still living (even though Jeff and I had 8 grandparents who attended our wedding!). I think the heirlooms that you've received from your grandmother are very special, and I'm happy that you were able to find your china still available to buy more pieces! They're very pretty!

Brenda said...

Thanks for sharing these special memories. What treasures you have from your grandparents-the lovely ring and now the china. I'm sure your grandmother would be pleased that you are going to use these dishes and not just put them in a cupboard.

Michelle said...

I enjoyed reading about your grandparents. I've been lucky to know all 4 of mine and 2 are still living at the ripe old age of 87 and 88 (this month). Grandparents are very special people.

It's so nice that you received such lovely mementos from your grandma. Both the ring and the china are beautiful.

mills5 said...

I love your entry here. I also love your heirlooms! Thanks for sharing.

coley said...

Lizzie- that china would definatly be vintage. Plus, it is timeless. That's so wonderful that you have something, well two somethings that belonged to your grandma!

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