teacups in china cabinet

Looking at old photographs of Grandma’s apartment in Brooklyn, I was particularly engaged by shots of adults with babies on their lap sitting in front of Grandma’s china cabinet. Although the china cabinet was not the subject of the photos, it brought back wonderful memories for me.

Grandma loved pretty porcelain items and china. She had dainty figurines, novel salt and pepper shakers, souvenir snow globes from her children’s travels, and “good bone china.” She displayed the items carefully in the china cabinet on cotton doilies that she crocheted herself. The doilies were not only pretty, but they helped protect the wood in the cabinet from scratches. Grandma Jennie took very good care of her things.

In fact, one of my fondest memories of my grandmother is when she would clean the items in her china cabinet. She would remove everything, including the doilies, and then she would wash her china and keepsakes in soapy water in her large double sink.

As she washed each item, she told me its story. My favorite story was the one about her “movie plates.” Many years ago, a local theater was offering souvenir plates to moviegoers. Grandma paid 25 cents to see a film and she also got a piece of china to take home. She went to a lot of movies and took home a whole set of dishes from those days! Beautiful items and beautiful memories.

Nowadays, not as many people keep a big fancy china cabinet to store or display their china collection. Many of us have only one set of tableware and don’t see the need for a second set of formal china. Others may have china collections that have been passed down in the family, but which they rarely use.

I think we don’t need to keep things that we have no use for; we can pass them along to those who can use them by donating or selling them at secondhand stores. But a collection of treasured items, if it is well cared for and beautifully displayed, can be a joyous addition to our lives.

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.