Transforming Tornado Alley: Family China and Personal Files: 6 of 18 Sessions

Silver-colored Tea Set Pieces

Silver-colored Tea Set Pieces

Since my mother passed away from frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) in 2008, I have referred to my family dementia-care experience as an unexpected tornado that hit my home (and it is taking years to recover from the devastation). Her death, followed by my father’s five-year decline, a marriage and a new home have me now managing my family estate (the material collections of my parents and grandparents) and constructing a personal paper-management system that until now was neither possible nor a priority.

Sessions 4, 5, and 6 of 18 in this third phase of my “Harmony at Home” estate-management program have elicited from me a new phrase that resonates, “Transforming Tornado Alley.” Unpacking three generations of dining and kitchen goods onto every available flat surface looks something akin to a flea market or antique fair. Family memories are baked into the glaze of many of the pieces and others (i.e. silver-plated serving dishes) remind me of a not-so-distant time when this style proudly spoke to a coming-of-age and social stability. In our home, these dishes sat still for years behind glass cabinet windows and stylishly gathering dust in a corner, only to be dutifully polished, if no other priorities pressed, annually.

What am I to do with these physical memories that my grandparents, public school teachers, lived through the Great Depression, and only years later were able to afford a nice china or silver-plated serving set for themselves or as a wedding gift for my mother? Sweeping these pieces completely out of my possession feels like I would be sadly erasing this defining chapter of my family history from my everyday experience (or at least removing access to a version of this chapter that might continue to be neatly confined in a glass cabinet). Current downsizing best-practices might suggest that I keep a few of these items as dining room decor and/or to incorporate as part of a special holiday celebration service.

To simply get started with the sort, we began by grouping like styles together. By the end of the three organizing sessions (a total of nine hours) we had identified my mother’s dining service set, my maternal and paternal grandmothers’ sets, my mother-in-law’s set, my grandmother’s tea service, and several other pieces (platters, trays, tea service items, water pitchers, glassware, coffee mugs, etc.) additional.

Moving forward with a listening heart,
vision, inquiry, and action,
~ Mary

Learn more about this estate management project:
Harmony at Home, Phase 3: 1 of 18 Sessions

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