Special Things

I was emptying the dishwasher, putting away the stainless steel flatware we’ve had since we got married.  And the thought hit me, as it does every time I empty the dishwasher—

I hate this flatware.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not that there’s anything really wrong with this flatware. It’s a good weight, with a modern design.  But I’ve been using it for three meals a day for over twenty years now.  If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then familiarity breeds contempt.

For at least three years, I’ve thought about replacing the flatware.  I even mentioned it to my husband.  No help there.  “What’s wrong with the flatware?  We’ve had it forever.”


I feel intense guilt at the thought of replacing it.  More than the cost or the time and hassle of seeking a new pattern, I worry about betraying this hard-working stainless steel.  I worry it will learn I covet something lighter, shinier.  Yes, the silver-plated flatware I got as a wedding gift.

Ironic, isn’t it?  I want to replace the boring stainless steel flatware with silver-plate I already own.  So, why haven’t I done it?

Tradition. It was drummed into me as a child that you only used the silver for holidays or special guests.  It’s not for every day.  It’s special. I have lots of this kind of stuff around my house.  I got married at a time when it was still traditional to fill out a gift registry with a china pattern, stemware and silver.  I have Danskk lead crystal wine glasses packed in tissue.  The silver is stored in special bags and boxes to keep from tarnishing.  I have holiday plates I use only at Christmas stored away in a cabinet.

Of course, while writing this blog, it occurs to me that my concerns go far deeper than knives, forks and champagne flutes. If I’ve packed away the silver and stemware for twenty years, barely ever taking it out to acknowledge it, have I done the same with people I love?

Our adult lives are filled with activity, responsibilities at work and at home.  Too often, families (okay, my family) tend to gather and focus on each other only at the holidays and special occasions.  It makes me wonder what life would be like if we all treated every day as if it were a special holiday.

Is it just me?  Or are there special things in your world that you lock away, protect, and only allow yourself occasional indulgences?  Is there a special person you may have neglected in your busy life?  Feel free to give a shout out.

I’ll select one commenter at random (thank you, Random.org) to receive a $15 gift certificate to your choice: Amazon, Barnes & Noble or iTunes.  Comments taken through midnight Pacific Time tonight.  Winner posted tomorrow.  (Bear with me–I’m traveling again this week.  I’ll check in on comments as I can from the road!)


About Amy Atwell

Amy Atwell is a storyteller at heart. After fifteen years in professional theater, she turned from the stage to the page to write contemporary capers and historical tales that combine romance and adventure. Her books are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. When not writing, she runs the online author communities WritingGIAM and Author E.M.S.
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35 Responses to Special Things

  1. StacieDM says:

    Amy you aren’t the only one. I grew up without having fine things. Now that I have them I use them sparingly. I suppose I don’t want to ruin them. I have closets and cabinets filled with expensive candles, china, handbags and stationery that have barely seen the light of day. A few years ago I decided I would start to use these things more. They are just taking up space if you don’t use them and enjoy them. I say use the silver-plate. Add a little glamour to your day to day life!

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Thanks for sharing, Stacie. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. And stationery–good heavens, I have so much stationery! What a great way to contact the people I love and acknowledge. Thanks for the idea!

  2. Edie Ramer says:

    I used to hold back, but as I get older I do let people know they’re special. Especially family. There are lots of hugs and kisses in mine and my husband’s.

    Amy, you’re in my writing family, and you’re very special. 😀

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Thanks, Edie. You’re special, too! Hugs and kisses are good. Words on the phone are good. I’m trying to Skype with my sister once per week now so we *see* each other. I want to do better at this!

  3. Misty Evans says:

    Amy, you’re an incredible person. Your feelings about the flatware are spot on for me. I use the good silver that was my mother-in-law’s whenever the chance arises. In the little booklet inside the silver chest, it recommends the best way to keep the silver looking nice is to use it regularly. I’ve applied that rule to most *valuables* in my life. I have a set of good stainless as well. Never liked it much and it continues to sit in the buffet because I can’t seem to part with it even though we never use it. 🙄

    Use the silverplated utensils for a week or so and see if you like using them. The only thing I don’t like about silver is you can’t throw it in the dishwasher without wrecking the finish. Sometimes, good ol’ stainless flatware is hard to beat, just like sometimes good ol’ everyday friends and family are hard to beat!

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Misty, thanks for the tip. Having polished the silver for the holidays, I agree that it’s better if one uses silver more often. I’m so glad to know that you ARE using your silver. You’re special–you deserve it!

  4. CrystalGB says:

    My mom always always saved things to use later. I have inherited some of her tendencies to do that. I only use my china and crystal on special occasions. I also keep pretty stationery and never use it. I need to start living in the moment and enjoy my stuff. 🙂

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Crystal, another person with beautiful, unused stationery. sigh We surround ourselves with beautiful things we’re afraid to use. I know the first time I break a fragile wine glass, I’ll cry, but it seems such a waste to leave it wrapped in tissue my entire life. So, yes, join me–enjoy your nice things! You deserve it.

  5. Amy, I’ve been guilty of this, too — especially with “special” objects like silverware or really nice soaps/lotions/decorative towels and things I got for a particular holiday and almost always forget to set out when the time comes…and some outfits, too, that require a dressier occasion. But, even when I have the opportunity, I rarely think to pull them out. (Out of sight, out of mind, perhaps?!) Oh, and don’t even get me started on the stuff stashed in boxes in the garage — lots of books, art supplies, things that should either be accessible or given away to someone who will use them. Hmm…I’m thinking maybe some official spring cleaning may be in order. 😉

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Well, I didn’t mean to set anyone on a spring cleaning quest, but now that you mention it… LOL It is funny how the holidays roll around, and I forget to take out the little tea towels, the special candles, and the soaps. (Oh yes, I have all those, too.)

  6. I’m guilty of the same thing, Amy. I have china, crystal, and gold flatware (admittedly, not really an every-day sort of thing) packed away for “special” occasions. And I have a collection of beautiful teacups, yet I drink my tea from an ugly mug. The fear of damaging these beautiful things keeps me from using them — yet I’m not really appreciating them where they are. I mean, really — how many dinner parties am I going to hold? I think I’ve hosted one in twenty years.

    I’m going to pull them out of storage and put them in my dish cabinet to use. I think I’ll leave the gold flatware where it is though…

    • Amy Atwell says:

      China teacups–I envy you. I drink coffee (and tea) out of heavy duty mugs. But having enjoyed high tea at Harrod’s in London once, I covet owning real porcelain teacups and saucers. I hope you will use them–and enjoy!

  7. I love your post, Amy! But now I feel wildly frivolous! I’ve owned at least five different sets of flatware in the last 20 years! It’s too easy to walk through Home Goods and say, “Gee, wouldn’t that look nice at the table…” On the other hand, I can totally relate to the tradition of not using the good stuff! My mother has a set of real silver. My sisters and I argue constantly over it–NOBODY wants it! Ever touch a gravy ladle made of real silver? Heat conductor… 😮

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Five sets of flatware? I’m so envious! As for your mom’s silver, I can appreciate that, too. My Mom had all sorts of silver–beautiful stuff. But none of my siblings nor I entertain that way. We’re in avoidance on the topic.

  8. Jill James says:

    Amy, I think if my silver had service for enough people I would use it all the time. The pattern is lovely and old-fashioned and was a present from a beloved Great-aunt. I’ve often thought we should take out the china, silverware, and crystal and use it. That’s what it was made for.

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Jill– I love that you have silver from a beloved relative. Yes, you should use it more often. Use of it and think of your great aunt with love!

  9. Jane says:

    There are many pieces of jewelry that I adore because of its sentimental value that I don’t wear, but I do take them out occasionally to admire them.

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Jane–how right you are to mention jewelry. I’ve received so many beautiful pieces over the years. I really need to pull the whole collection of things out and see what I have. Thanks for the reminder of more hidden memories.

  10. Amy, so often we do things we believe no one else does, only to find it’s a common thread. Use everything you can, while you can. Fifteen years ago I relocated to start a new business. Twelve hundred miles from my entire family, I knew no one and no one knew me. The beautiful things my mom saved for me and all my beautiful things I saved for my daughter, sat in storage and no one loved or enjoyed them.

    Here I have a new “family” and I am moving again. This fall I am going to pack a truck and ride to my daughter’s house, then to my son’s house and give them part of my mom’s and my memories. Then I’ll take more of it and give them to my new family. I’ll keep some of her china and my Christmas collection, and the rest will be used and loved by someone new.

    This way wherever I travel from South Florida to South Brooklyn, I can enjoy my mom’s and my beautiful things. I’m sure she will be very happy to know her granddaughters cherish her tea service as much as I did. Thanks 🙂

  11. Amy Atwell says:

    Florence, thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve also moved around a lot. For the most part, I don’t tend to collect things and hold onto memories too long. I tend to purge. Yet, these family traditions are impossible for me to let go. Can’t let go, but I hide them away in cabinets and closets. I am definitely breaking out the silver this week. Thank you all!

  12. Cynthia Eden says:

    I’m like you–I have all the special china and fine glasses tucked away. 🙂 But I have vowed that I am going to start having “special” meals at least 2x each month. Days where I will just celebrate life w/ my family–and we’ll use that fine china and we’ll light candles and cook a big meal. And be happy. 🙂

    • Amy Atwell says:

      That sounds like a plan, Cynthia. And what a wonderful new tradition to share with your children. Candles at the dinner table–now that sounds lovely. I should try that this weekend!

  13. Chelsea B. says:

    This is probably where I am different then everyone else…. Once I have something, I like to enjoy it and use it often. I have hardly any impulse control 😉 But that’s just *things*. With people, well…. I tend to say I’ll call so and so and three years could pass by. Sad, but true.

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Chelsea– I often tell my siblings and other loved ones that I think of them far more often than they hear from me. I think of them at odd hours, from places where it’s inconvenient to call. I love them, but I really need to work harder at making sure they remain a part of my life.

  14. Liz Kreger says:

    I think most families have your problem, Amy. We want to keep the nice and shiny stuff nice and shiny forever. When my grandmother passed away, I got her good china. Why? Because she said I was the only one who’d ever broken a piece of it. 😆 Good ‘nough reason as far as I’m concerned.

    However, we tend to bring family and friends out at special occasions. I have cousins in Fond du Lac (about and hour and a half away) that I rarely see … even though I like ’em. 😯 Gotta make more time. That’s all there is to it.

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Liz, Time is so precious, we dole it out. It’s hard to prioritize, but I see you have you (like me) intend to do better. Yay, I’m not alone. Enjoy your grandmother’s china. Cherish it regularly by using it and remembering her.

  15. Pamk says:

    I try very hard to keep up with the folks in my life. As a person who lost her mom at a very young age (17) I realize that no one is promised tomorrow. I try and call most of the folks special to me at least once a week. It’s hard because sometimes I am the only one making that effort but I do try. lol. As for things no there is nothing that I keep back like that. If it’s there is usuable. Cause they are just things. I have pics and memories that are way more special that any item I got from certain folks. the only exception I have is my mother’s wedding bands and certain rings she had. I don’t use those because we don’t have the same taste hopefully I’ll have a granddaughter who’ll love those things.

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Pam, Hugs on losing your mom. How wonderful that you do your part to stay connected with your family. And I appreciate how important the photos are. One of my goals for this year is to scan a bunch of family photos so they’re stored online. I’d hate to lost them in some natural disaster. Thanks for stopping by!

  16. EmmaD says:

    I’ve just taken the opportunity to do what you’ve been thinking off (kinda). We had this beautiful set of cutlery (stainless steel mirror finish) worth approx $500NZ that we won (well actually they were the trainers price for a big race a horse we trained won). It’s been sitting in it’s wooden display box ever since we won it as seemed to nice to use. But we’ve just moved house and I took the opportunity to give the old culterly to the Salvation Army and start using the nice stuff. Figured there was no point in looking at it admiringly when we could actually be using them. 8 piece’s of everything so plenty enough for a 2 person household. The only thing I’ve done is make sure we wash them by hand as the dishwasher chemicals are not so good for the mirror finish.

    Best decision I ever made. I love using them and think about the horse that won them often.

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Emma–what a great story. I love horses, and if I had a set of cutlery won in a horserace, I don’t think I could resist using it. Enjoy! I will think of you as I start using my own silverware.

  17. Michelle Diener says:

    Amy, we use our ‘good’ cutlery every time we have people over for dinner, which isn’t as often as I’d like, but at least once a month. And my kids love dinners with candelight, so we do that often. But I need to reach out and connect to more people. I live so far away from everyone now. I’m loving my iP4’s facetime app, though. I ‘see’ my sister way more than I used to with it. It’s so handy.

    And I have jewellery that never gets used, either. I need to do something about that.

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Michelle–enjoy the face time. It IS important–and now that we have the technology, it’s a shame not to use it. Glad to hear you’re enjoying special family dinners. And maybe we should organize a jewelry swap in NYC this summer….

  18. Amy Atwell says:

    Hey all–just wanted to check in and announce that Random.org picked comment #1, so StacieDM is our winner for the $15 gift certificate. Stacie, I’m on the road tomorrow, but I’ll email you Thursday night or Friday to get specifics from you. Thanks so much, everyone!!

  19. LaDonna says:

    Amy, so love this post, girl! 🙂 I need to update my silverware too. We have a mix of several sets now and I’ve also wanted to buy new lately. For me, I love color and one of my daughters bought the cutest set with colored handles. All different colors and that’s more me, I guess. lol I can see me buying those and using them all the time.

    I do have my mom’s china in my cabinet, and use wine gobblets and favored mugs often. In my mom’s day, everything was kept for special too. When you think about it, a new day is cause enough to enjoy all of those lovely things and I do.

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