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The joys of pouring pretend tea from Grandma's silverware

The joys of pouring pretend tea from Grandma's silverware

The joys of pouring pretend tea from Grandma's silverware

26 July 2021

Not what they were designed for, but what better use for a fancy silver bowl and milk jug than for a two-year-old to pour water and mix up sand them?

by Faye Michelson

We have a little toy kitchen in a corner of our back deck, a popular play space for the little people in our family. It’s a compact box made of sturdy pallets and chipboard, stained to withstand the elements.

It has necessary features such as an oven door with knobs you can turn, a small blackboard to scribble on, a stainless-steel bowl for a sink, a shelf with hooks underneath to hang cups and painted-on hotplates for cooking. Most of the kitchen utensils are plastic, but sitting alongside the bright plates, spoons and saucepan is some matching silverware – a dainty milk jug, a two-handled sugar bowl and an elegant water pitcher.

They belonged to my late mother-in-law. They were wedding presents, and I remember them in her crystal cabinet, although I can’t remember ever using them at family dinners. When we came to pack up her house when she moved into care, I was surprised that no one in the family wanted them. “They’re too much work to polish and a bit old-fashioned,” my nieces and daughters said.

It was the same with the fine-bone china dinner set that we’d eaten celebratory family meals off over so many, many years. Again, they were just not interested. “It can’t go into the dishwasher or microwave,” they explained.

No one wanted it, and I didn’t either, but I couldn’t throw it out. So, it stayed boxed up in my garage for years. So did the silverware until we bought the little kitchen. I was going to buy a plastic jug because the kids loved pouring water – then I remembered the jug, the pitcher and the sugar bowl. Rust-proof and shiny – perfect! They’re tarnished, but these beautifully shaped pieces with their finely etched patterns still look very stylish in the little kitchen.

My daughter laughed out loud when she saw them there for the first time. “I remember polishing these with Grandma when I was a kid,” she said as we watched her two-year-old mixing sand in the sugar bowl and pouring water from the silver jug into a plastic cup. “I wonder what Grandma would think if she knew her lovely silverware was being used like this?”

What an interesting question. When we packed up my mother-in-law’s house for her, all of us asked her again and again what she would like to take with her to make her little suite more homelike. Any ornaments, special crockery, paintings for her walls, small pieces of furniture, anything? There was not much she wanted from the house she’d lived in for nearly 60 years, filled with the things she’d collected, bought and been given over a lifetime.

A small armchair and her bedroom chest of drawers, a crystal vase, a set of decorative plates to hang on the wall, a collection of family photographs – not much else, really. Not the stamp collection that had given her pleasure since she was a child, not the figurines displayed on the mantelpiece, not the large painted porcelain urns that had belonged to her parents – as she shook her head over everything, we packed it all up. She said she simply didn’t need them. Her possessions had served their purpose.

What a life lesson that was. There’s plenty written about material objects and our attitude towards them in the Bible, but the one that came to my mind was from 1 Timothy chapter 6, verse 7. “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”

Possessions serve their purpose, and, in the end, they have no purpose at all. These silver pieces told the story of the value of objects, going from pride of place in a crystal cabinet to being discarded because they were old-fashioned to being played with in a sandpit and toy kitchen.

As I watched our little two-year-old fill and refill cups of water with her fancy jug, I know exactly what dear Noela would have thought about her great-granddaughter playing with her silverware.

Faye Michelson is assistant editor of



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