Airing the Family Laundry, or in this case China

We got in the spirit of Memorial Day by hitting the attic stairs at Gramps’ and diving head first into unearthing the family china. Charlie’s attic is awash in Victorian relics clothed in dust soaked cardboard boxes. When my grandmother moved into a retirement home all extraneous china was packed in wobbly boxes and nestled in 1980’s news paper. When my own mother died all the treasures that lived in custom cabinets carefully designed for them were packed willy nilly by a stranger and housed in boxes marked “Kitchen” for 10 years. Now that the kids are grown up and moving back in with toddlers, cousins are getting married, having babies and nesting double-time it seemed like the right moment to let the blood bath begin.

Apparently my brother Cary has a thing for china. The story goes that as a tiny child he saw some china plates and let it be known that he liked them. Ever since then this particular set has been referred to as “Cary’s China”. If this is not embarrassing enough, his wife Judy when ever given the chance tells the story of how picky Cary was about china in their wedding registry. Apparently he claimed he, “didn’t care”, but when dragged to the store became rather controlling about china selection. Apparently Judy went online later and removed all his choices from their registry . It must be true love because they are still married.

It was amazing to see Cary so galvanized about the whole thing. He swooped in like a lots-of-$-an-hour management consultant and organized the whole engagement. Not only did he bark orders and keep the junior associates scurrying, he had this incredible China Matrix in his head. He made executive matching decisions expertly, while at the same time defining new sets and subsets on the fly. He knew which box to put things in, and which box was full. We were all so cowed by his flawless execution that we pretty much praised him when he admitted that he broke a plate. Even gods make mistakes, that’s what makes them so endearing.

Everyone knows that all good swat teams have a talker.You know, the one who seems innocent but is tasked with distracting the client to delight while the rest of the team is busy squeezing the knowledge base from their underlings.That is my stepmother Mattie.According to her she had the most insane post Victorian mother anyone could have.One who hoarded furnishings, and house wares then let them rot in her barn under the pretense of “antique shop”.Mattie was an endless stream of, “Oh, look – at – that” and “My mother had one just like that” and “You know what they used to use these for”. It was very comforting to have our own on-site treasure expert along. It leant an air of professionalism to the whole operation.Let’s face it all of us want to be an Antiques Road Show expert but Mattie had the gumption to live out that dream!

Well all good romps into the past must end, and we have to embrace the present. I had forgotten that it was my dad’s birthday. He turned 68 as we unearthed our family place ware legacy. After dinner we had cake. The marshmallows were hand inscribed with chocolate penned in toothpick. Apparently, at one point in the afternoon the inscription process had to be hurriedly covered by a New York Times across the lap, as my sweet father blundered by in the innocent search for tea, or some other old guy meandering. Fortunately Cary reads body language, and like any good managing principal adeptly returned the client’s focus to the work at hand, and the attic stairs. Upon cake candles and reflection, there is not that much of the china that I really want. Did it lay there swaddled in anticipation all those years, only to wake up and be set free?