The Gift of Mamma’s China

Some time ago, I came across a post which intrigued me: Which Lord of the Rings Personality Are You? I’d heard of personality types and tests, but dismissed them as a lot of nonsense. But The Lord of the Rings? They had me hooked there! 

Now, if you’re not familiar with The Lord of the Rings you might want to check out the books or movies before reading further. Or better yet, just look it up. That would be a lot quicker since they’re all epic length!

And you can also take the personality test here. I did, convinced I would be Frodo! How I longed be that noble little hobbit, saving the world!

But alas, I came out as the elf queen Galadriel, dashing that fond hope to pieces. Because honestly, she’s the one character who kind of scares of me! Although I must say that I was consoled by at least getting a hobbit husband!

Now in case you’re wondering what all this has to do with china plates, read on…

As an ESFJ type, Hubby tested out as Bilbo! Which means he’s conventional and consistent, holding tightly to tradition. And romantic. Dates and celebrations (which I tend to forget) mean a lot to him. So he also likes to hold on to heirlooms and mementos, like Mamma’s china.

Whereas I (an INFJ type) tend to see mementos as unnecessary clutter. There’s a whole new world out there to explore and discover. Why hold on to things that will only hold me back?

But getting back to the plates…

Well, several years ago we undertook the care of Hubby’s old family home in southern Italy, and all the work that came with it. The house was filthy, in ill repair, and full of mold and mildew due to the leaky roof. And on top of it all, there were tons of trash and stuff and to sort through and get rid of – mostly dumped there by generous? cousins.

100 plates

And that was when I found the plates. Plates of all kinds. Some cheap and nicked, and some nearly complete sets in good condition. But mostly all mismatched – and way too many. I know, because I counted over 100! Now, I ask you – who in the world needs that many plates?

Which all created a great quandary for Minimalist Me. What was I supposed to do with all those dishes which I neither wanted nor needed?!

So I kept out what I felt we would actually use. Temporarily stuffing the rest in the basement. A dilemma to deal with another time, when my plate (no pun intended) was less full.

In the end, my daughter ended up taking the nice, almost complete 12-setting china service. And I gave the rest away. After all, we had no intentions of opening an agriturismo or B&B.

And then we started noticing a nostalgic look in Hubby’s eyes when he used those plates. Until it finally came out that they were his mother’s dishes. I’ll never understand why he hadn’t mentioned it! But needless to say, Anne and I swapped plates, and Mamma’s China came home for keeps.

I know that Hubby would hate for anything to happen to those plates. For they help keep Mamma’s memory alive for him, bringing her just a little closer. When holds them, he sees them in his mother’s hands.

“Chip the glasses and break the plates, that’s what Bilbo Baggins hates!”

Bilbo, JRR Tolkien

Which is a concept I don’t fully understand. To me they were and still are, just plates. Sure they’re fine antique china. And it is special that they were my mother-in-law’s. But I don’t need things to keep the past alive for me, for it lives vividly in my heart and over-active imagination.

Plates and such things (no matter whose they were) hold no real meaning for me. They just don’t have the same pull that his mother’s china does for him, because I don’t need stuff to help keep memories alive for me.

Mamma’s china

The gift of understanding

The special thing for me was being able to give them to my husband, along with the gift of understanding.

Because to be perfectly honest, I didn’t always have a lot of patience with what I saw as sentimental drivel. All that unnecessary stuff and clutter because memories will always live on in my mind and heart. (That’s Minimalist Me, for better or for worse.)

But I’m glad I learned about personality traits. It helped me see all our quirks and tendencies in a whole new way. And combined with another Tolkien treasure, I realized that we’re all really an odd mix of quirks. Because yes, just like Bilbo Baggins, my husband is a bit stuck in his ways, clinging to his mementos and daily routines.

But he’s also quick to leave his precious doilies and china to help anyone in need. Just like Bilbo did in answering the call to help the dwarves save their homeland. When the call comes, he’s right there on the fighting line.

“You’ve been sitting quietly for far too long. Tell me. When did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you? I remember a young Hobbit who was always running off in search of Elves in the woods.”

Gandalf, JRR Tolkien

So I learned it’s worth having patience, overlooking quirks, and even *gasp from Minimalist Me* putting up with some clutter. Because under all that we’ll usually find plenty of hidden treasure.

I was blessed to be able to give the gift of Mamma’s China knowing it brought joy. And I’ll be on the look-out for other such gifts. Because even when we don’t fully understand, we can still share another’s joy. And joy shared is always joy doubled!

Love is taking a few steps backward, maybe even more… to give way to the happiness of the one you love!

A.A. Milne

Images: Dishes with white pumpkin by TerriC | Piles of plates by Jasmine Scheriber | Others ©SignoraSheila.

12 thoughts on “The Gift of Mamma’s China

    1. Thanks Linda, although I don’t know about me being a Titus 2 woman. But I do believe that we can learn a lot through the experiences of others. And I do hope it will be of help to someone!


  1. I see both sides so clearly, Sheila. I feel I’m a messy mix of both the minimalist and the saver. Memories are fun and funny things; what sparks the heart for one because of something does nothing for someone else, even in the same family. But I’m all in on the Lord of the Rings–I’ve read the trilogy and The Hobbit eight times! And I think you make an awesome Galadriel!


    1. I’m sure a lot of us are a mix, Dayle. I know I am in lots of things. But wow, 8 times!! I’ve only read the books once, but watched the films countless times. They’re great! Maybe you should try doing the Lord of the Rings character test which, by the way, was made by our daughter and son-in-law! I’d be curious to know who you are, dear friend!


  2. Yet another circumstance we have in common, Sheila. We also are the caretakers of my husband’s grandmother’s china–nearly 12 place settings and many serving pieces. Perhaps one of our three granddaughters will appreciate family history and antiques, to become the next caretaker, because none of our three children have shown interest! It may come down to this: in order to give way to the happiness of the ones we love, we may need to take a few steps backward from that set of china and just let it go!


    1. Aha Nancy, I see you have a kindred spirit with my husband; your home must be beautiful! (I have already seen your beautiful heart.) But you know, family history is important to me and I love learning about it. It’s just that keeping a photo of the plates would serve me just as well. And I am glad that in my older years I’m learning to take a few steps backward – from stuff – but also from many of my own sometimes stubborn ways and ideas. I wonder how many things I have missed because I didn’t take those backward steps as often as I should have? May that ever change!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Our home is (mostly!) beautiful to us–lots of memories attached to the hand-me-downs! (An interior designer would no doubt have MANY suggestions!!) I’ve thought of that scrapbook idea too–when the time comes to seriously down-size. I admire your minimalist philosophy, Sheila–the peaceful, airy atmosphere you no doubt enjoy!


        1. Thanks Nancy, I do believe the memories tied to things are super special, and I understand why many people like holding on to the stuff. My mom is that way. We’re all different, thankfully! And yes, I have found that scrapbooking photos of precious items works great for me, at least! And most certainly a big help in the downsizing process!!


  3. A delightful post all the way through. Except. Except that I don’t buy your not understanding that a plate isn’t just a plate. The person who wrote this post so well must know that. Tee her. Love helps us understand, which is lovely.


    1. Thanks Cynthia. Isnt it amazing how different we all are, and yet each one of us so special?! I do agree with you all plates are different too. But I really do mean it when I say that they are just plates, no matter how beautiful. I do enjoy seeing the beauty of things, but without feeling the need to possess them. A pile of mismatched thrift store plates does me just as well. The real beauty I found in them was just making my husband happy. That was worth gold to me!! And that is why I enjoy them!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Of course all that is true, but I still like teasing you! Thanks again for a delightful, beautifully written post, Sheila. Such an insightful piece about how different we all are and how love makes us see more than our own preferences.


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