Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Tempest Brews in Heirloom Teacups

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Tempest Brews in Heirloom Teacups

Article excerpt

Every family has its cherished possessions. Small or large, modest or grand, these objects become infused with memories and an importance that has little to do with monetary worth. It's their sentimental value that counts.

Ranking high on many lists of domestic treasures are Grandma's china and crystal. Passing these fragile legacies down to the next generation remains an honored tradition in many families.

Yet a generational shift is under way as some parents make a surprising discovery: Their children aren't interested.

Fancy china? "Sorry, Mom, it's just not me," a daughter or son might say, adding, "Besides, it can't go in the dishwasher."

Sterling silver? "No thanks - it needs polishing."

Crystal goblets? "Nope - too fancy, too fragile."

As for those snowy damask linens that grace Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner tables, who has time to iron yards of fabric? And who wants to spend $15 or $20 to have each one professionally laundered? Placemats work just fine, Mom.

In an era of frequent mobility, casual entertaining, and later marriage, cupboards filled with delicate heirlooms are gathering dust. Practical questions loom large for potential heirs: Where

would I store these treasures? How would I move them? And when would I use them? Pizza and Chinese takeout hardly call for Wedgwood and Waterford.

The dinner party, social observers warn, is becoming an endangered species. In a hurried age, such events simply require

too much work. Similarly, the luncheon - that midday pleasure of women who don't have to watch a clock on a lunch hour or eat a sandwich at their desk - is nearly extinct.

No wonder casual tableware from popular retailers such as Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel is replacing porcelain and crystal on bridal registry lists.

When children turn down these legacies of love, what is a parent to do? One couple moving this month from a large house in Ohio to a smaller one in Oregon wanted to give their 48-piece crystal set to their newly married daughter. She politely declined.

When the mother took the crystal to an antiques shop, the owner told her, "There just isn't a market for this now. …

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