Here I am, almost 3 years old, eating probably my first meal ever off the beautiful blue Wedgwood china with which the table is set. What a big girl I am!
My sister, 15 months younger, is still too little.
At the head of the table presides my Grammy, whose china this was.
Beyond the place settings and candlesticks on the table, her whole apartment was decorated with pieces in this style -- ash trays, candy dishes, containers, and more.
I loved all of it, most of all the heart-shaped container.
Nowhere else did I see china like Grammy's special china. It was blue, instead of white, and textured, not flat. And it only came out for holiday meals, accompanied by my favorite dishes of Grammy's -- gefilte fish, brisket, kugel, tsimmes, and most of all, her amazing matzo ball soup.
Even before she passed away she said I could have the dishes, but I didn't have room for them in my small New York apartment. After she went and my grandfather moved into assisted living, I took some of the decorative pieces, starting with the heart-shaped container, but it wasn't until five years after she died that I had an apartment with room for the dishes.
When they arrived I found plates in many different sizes, a full tea set, salt and pepper shakers, candle sticks, a platter, a soup tureen... but no bowls!
How could there be no bowls???
How did we eat her matzo ball soup????
To this day I don't know whether there were ever bowls. I can't find any pictures with us eating soup at a meal where she used the Wedgwood. I still half-hope that they are lost in my parents' basement like my ultra-cool Z. Cavarrici pants, which disappeared from 6th grade until college, when they turned up with dry cleaning that went into storage.
But today I have a full set, and that's because I bought them bowl-by-bowl off eBay over a period of years.
Actually, a friend did all the buying. I was too stressed out by the whole auction thing. Would I win this particular bowl? If I won this below, was it because I bid too much? If I lost this bowl, would another bowl ever turn up for sale?! Should I bid more because this might be the last Wedgwood Queensware cream-on-lavender rimmed soup bowl (plain edge) on the planet? &c.
Having to research & buy the bowls myself turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Without them I would never have discovered the story they recorded.
It turns out that the Wedgwood company stamped the bottom of their plates with the year each piece was manufactured. My reassembled set of bowls, naturally, came from many different years, but so did the collection Grammy assembled. Most of her pieces are dated 1959, but they range from 1955-1965.
The china records the story of my grandparents' many trips to England. My grandfather was an ardent Anglophile who liked having his shirts made in London. (He also went so far as to once claim his NY-born father was from England.) Clearly my grandmother caught the bug in her own way.
In the early 60s they became friends with a British couple they met on a cruise, which gave them an additional excuse to visit.
Since there aren't any pictures or letters to corroborate the story the china tells, it's all we have to sketch out a part of my grandparents' lives that was important to them.
Through me, the Wedgwood Grammy brought back to the U.S. continues to play a central role in our family's holidays meals.
(And my tastes in movies and literature continues Poppy's Anglophilia!)