Polishing for a Special Occasion

A few weeks ago, in anticipation of The Bookclub Tea Party, I polished the entire inventory of the family silver—what I had inherited, and bought, as well as my youngest sister’s silver. The “middle sister” is moving, and in need of storage space, so this weekend I added in a few more pieces.

Polishing the silver was another one of those things I hadn’t done since before my mom died. Putting the hosting of parties on hold sounds dramatic and forgivable when associated with grieving…cleaning and maintaining items in your house does not. Well, not after a certain point in time. So with an old bed sheet to cover the living room floor, and quick trip to the local Ace Hardware for a new jar of polish, I was ready to go. Oh, and TV. Lots of TV hours. This weekend I finished off the jar, and with quite a bit of satisfaction, too. There’s something about making something tarnished shiny again.

I’m just old-fashioned enough that I love using “the good silver.” Not just the nostalgia of it, but the look of elegance and attitude of celebration it lends to a table. It’s a special-occassion item that often goes unused because of the amount of maintenance it requires. (Though not terribly much, when polishing should only happen 1-2 times a year, max.) I have so many memories of its use during family holidays and celebrations. Always the “good silverware” for a family birthday party. The silver candy dishes filled with nuts and ribbon candy at Christmas. Even realizing, years later, that our childhood “play teapot,” among all the “play dishes” (real china!) and the dress-up clothes was really my great-grandmother’s little teapot. It had long since lost its look of respectability, but after some very determined effort and lots of polish, those flaws simply add to its charm.

I found my own (gorgeous) tea service at an estate sale, marked down to less than $75 because it had been left to tarnish for quite a while. I could say that no one wanted to take the time to bring it all back, but I’d prefer to think that it just in hiding, waiting just for me! (Teapot, coffee pot, hot chocolate pot with warmer, sugar, creamer, waste pot AND serving tray…really!)

It’s easy to always save something “for good,” or for a special occasion that somehow never quite seems to happen. The dining room that never gets used because of the kitchen table, the good china still packed away. My grandmother was one who saw so many moments as that special occasion, worth celebrating, no matter how small. Birthdays, anniversaries, even a good day at work. And when I see the cabinet of time-invested pieces, I’m reminded to make a few more moments special.    

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