One of the many reasons this week has been such a champagne bubble up and Mean Red down at the Pretty is the would-be birthday of Grandmother - under pain of certain death, she was known as "Grandmother", never "Grandma" - this Saturday, when she would have turned 84. Grandmother, who was very much a mother in all the meaningful ways to me, maintained that she was 29 and holding up until the day of her passing earlier this year, so that 84 is an educated guess, but it's telling about both her marvelously stubborn nature and adherence to appearances.
And yet she was not just full of pithy sayings and respect for formal traditions. Without complaint, she marched me to theater productions, special museum exhibits, and lunch at Neiman Marcus, where I first learned to appreciate outrageously scrumptious Monkey Bread with strawberry butter. She bought me my first set of engraved Good Paper & demanded/taught me to write the "bread and butter" note. She wasn't the cookie-baking type of grandmother - oh, was she ever an awful cook - nor was she the type to offer a decent hug, but she ensured that my brother and I had a top-quality education, and made many, many personal sacrifices to ensure that it happened. No library trip or book was denied, nor any other learning or cultural opportunity. Through her obvious eccentricities - and there were many, the lurid blue eyeshadow being just the frosting on the Estee Lauder caked foundation - and flaws and private demons, I always knew that she prioritized family in her funny, odd way above all else - and isn't that all that we can ask of a parent, really?
As any good daughter / granddaughter is prone to do, I spent my adolescence fighting all of this, my melodramatic exit from Cotillion in sixth grade being the first of my many Crimes Against Feminine Tradition. Because no sixth grader, particularly a painfully awkward one entirely afraid of actual boys, should be forced to learn the Pattycake Polka, but that's a subject for a different post. In any event, I struggled mightily against her teaching until I hit age 21 or so, when the feminine graces started to sneak in somehow.
It was then that I realized that I really did, and do, love Good Paper, and taking a stab at being nice to other people even when every fiber of my being doesn't feel like it (most of the time, that is), and appreciating the arts and incredible writing and all the other things that make each day a little more beautiful. I began the path to redemption in her eyes by joining the Junior League, and greatly advanced my cause back into grace by marrying the Grandmother-endorsed Doctor / Laywer/ and-or Respectable Businessman (any of the above being equally desirable), but I've come to suspect this lady business is a bit of a lifelong learning process.
So in Grandmother's honor, I raise my symbolic flute of Veuve - a love of champagne being a family tradition and all - and share with you my formal china and sterling silver patterns. Yes, my china and silver patterns. While this might strike some of you as odd or irreverent, it is the very highest form of tribute I can conceive of for this very special, independent lady. Because second to my becoming a well-educated, well-rounded woman of substance, or at least effectuating the appearance of same, the subjects most discussed over our NM or Four Seasons brunches since I've reached the age of majority were - formal china and silver patterns. And so I bring you:
(credit: Michael C. Fina)
"Imperial Scroll" by Miss Vera Wang & Wedgwood. Should you find yourself in Austin, please drop by Chez Pretty - both because I'd love to meet you all and because I look for any excuse whatsoever to whip out my beloved china.
(Credit: Affordable Dinnerware)
"Chippendale" by Towle. Again, really looking for opportunities to use these more often. Barbeque, superdelicious cupcakes, Twinkies, whatever - my sparkly sterling is depending on you.
Grandmother, we never said the mushy "love" stuff, so I'll leave it at this - thank you for the china. There isn't Good Paper enough to say all that you mean to me, but don't worry - I'll keep up with the thank-you notes.