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Memories are made on crystal, fine china

POSTED: December 21, 2008 1:00 a.m.

Christmas was always one of those days we used the good china. We also ate in the dining room.

In the breakfront china cabinet where the good china was kept was a set of crystal stemware that belonged to my grandmother.

We never used it, but it was one of the few heirlooms that she left us.

My grandmother's name was Irene Blackwood, but everyone, including me, called her Blackie.

In 1921 her husband died suddenly, leaving her with four little boys to raise. They moved from LaGrange to Atlanta, where Blackie found work as a private-duty nurse.

She never owned a home, but managed to get through the depression as a single mother with her family intact.

Her crystal was called Candlewick and, according to my own research, could have been made as early as 1936 by Imperial Glass. In the relatively simple life she led, I'm sure it was something she treasured.

My grandmother lived with us when I was little. Her health was in decline and doctors thought she had hardening of the arteries, because she was showing signs of dementia. We had not heard of Alzheimer's Disease, but there is no doubt that she was a victim.

My folks left me briefly in her care one day and she took me to a neighbor's home.

"I don't know whose baby this is and I can't be responsible for it," she told them. This led to her being placed in a nursing home where she lived out the rest of her life.

Years later, my mother gave me the crystal. During a move, the box containing my grandmother's treasure was either lost or stolen. Regardless, it was gone.

Last week, my wife happened by an antique store that was going out of business. Among the items left for sale were 31 pieces of Candlewick. She bought it and could not contain the surprise until Christmas. It is a most wonderful gift.

It may not be Blackie's crystal, but it is her pattern and when I look at it I will think of her.

We seemed to have lost our taste for good china and pretty crystal. Young brides seem more concerned about picking out a popcorn popper than fine tableware.

To me, there is something about heirloom china and crystal. It gives a glimpse of the person and her tastes. I sometimes glimpse at the plates and cups and think of when they were used to celebrate birthdays, holidays and happy times.

I think of the painstaking care that my mother would use as she carefully wiped each piece one last time before placing them back in the breakfront cabinet.

We weren't rich; in fact, there were times of extended illness of my father when Mama struggled to keep us going.

But those times around the dining room table with our family together were her real joy. The china was just a reminder of how special it really was.

A few days from now, we will move into our new home. It was built to replace one that burned earlier this year.

We will move in with pieces that have ties to both of our families. I hope we use them often and create a whole new set of good memories at Christmas and always.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays.



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