It’s all (Haviland) in the family

By Cathy Wood

My grandmother smiled as she gently freed the daintily flowered tea cup from its yellowed tissue paper. She set it carefully on the matching saucer, adding it to the china deluge that threatened to take over the white linen-covered dining room table as the corresponding pile of tissue paper grew higher.

“Oh, Mother,” my mom breathed in. “That’s gorgeous. But are you sure it’s Baltimore Rose? That looks more like Trellis to me.”

Welcome to my childhood.

I’m not sure what your mother & grandmother talked about when they got together, but I bet it wasn’t the merits of relish trays versus celery trays or how many oatmeal bowls constitute a complete set, anyway?

My mom & her mother were crazed true Haviland Limoges crazy people collectors. They stalked antique shops & scouted estate sales, looking for that elusive spoon holder or bone dish. They bought price guides & made endless lists that began “4 bread-and-butter plates, 2 meat platters … ” They knew everybody within 100 miles who had a 12-place setting in the coveted Sheraton pattern.

And because I was the lone girl in the family — my mom was an only child & I had only brothers — I was the Haviland heir apparent. No matter that I’d rather be outside playing or curled up somewhere (else) with a Nancy Drew book. Didn’t make a difference that I was clumsy & heavy-handed & desperately afraid of dropping the rare Montreux-pattern tureen lid. Wasn’t a problem that I couldn’t tell the difference between lilies of the valley & lilacs in a garden much less on a dessert plate.

My disinterest was ignored. My aversion to delicate & fragile was disregarded. It was no use — by the time I had my own family, I somehow owned three whole sets of Haviland along with countless spare pieces & a box full of identification guides & newspaper clippings.

I guess the Apple (Blossom gravy boat) doesn’t fall far from the tree.

But all kidding aside, the Haviland Limoges story IS fascinating. A New York importer named David Haviland stumbled across a French porcelain tea service in 1838. Recognizing its superiority to the English imports he’d been selling, he decided to be the first American to introduce the fine china to American society. Haviland ended up moving his family to Limoges, France, home of the clay ingredient called “kaolin” that made the china so unique. The company survived wars, family squabbles & economic downturns and is still selling tableware today. (Learn more here.)

I ‘m not sure why my grandmother — and then my mom — loved Haviland so much. Did my great-grandmother have some when my grandmother was growing up? Was it something my grandmother always wanted when she was little? I don’t know, but I sure wish I’d thought to ask.

And, you know, some of those patterns are pretty. In fact, I’ve got a couple of dinner plates in the Richmond pattern & sure could use the salad plates to go with.

Luckily, YOU can add to — or start — your own Haviland collection at our first Rooted in Memories estate sale, where you can see the china’s elegant beauty for yourself. We’ll have good prices & plenty of sturdy packing materials. Check back often for details as we finalize the sale dates.

China & crystal & linens … oh, my!

By Cathy Wood

So, see all of those plates & dishes & things in these photos? If you’re like most of my friends & my Younger Daughter, you love this image. You see yourself sitting in front of the open doors, oohing & aahing in delight as you unearth treasures. You’ll carefully pick up each piece, inspect it for nicks, turn it over for identifying marks. You wonder about where it came from & who used it. This is your happy place.

My mom would love you. This was her happy place, too.

Well, one of them. One of approximately 132 million shelves & drawers & boxes & cabinets in her house that look just like this — plates & goblets stacked precariously, tablecloths & napkins packed tightly. All waiting for people to love them.

I am not those people. This is not my happy place. This is my oh-good-lord-what-are-we-going-to-do-with-all-of-this-stuff place.

You see, my mom loved antiques. China, crystal, silverware, tablecloths, quilts — they all found new homes in ours, She knew the layout of every antique mall within a two-hour radius & the name of every antiques dealer within three. Family vacations included negotiations between her & my dad on how many antique shops we’d stop at (although Dad himself was susceptible to glass insulators, Civil War books & farm tools). But it wasn’t the browsing & buying & bringing home that bothered me — it was how freakin’ long the process took. Determined not to miss a single item, my mom could spend hours in antiquing mode. She’d go through every hatbox, every squeaky drawer, every dark musty corner. Time had no meaning when searching for a Towle fish fork or a Heisey relish dish. I took a book with me every time we got in the car because I never knew when I’d have two hours of waiting-for-Mom-to-finish-looking time.

At one point, she started what we’d call today a “side hustle.” She became the original 1980s Girl Boss. At her peak, she had at least six booths at various antiques malls, a small open-by-appointment-only antiques shop at my dad’s retirement project/tree farm and a robust series of much-anticipated yard sales. And she loved every minute. After my dad died in 2016, she shifted from active antiques hunting to enjoying her acquisitions at home. She put a comfy chair in the sunroom and filled the bookshelves with price guides and file folders. We’d often find her asleep with an antiques magazine in one hand & a pen in the other. She and her caregivers spent hours cleaning & arranging & rearranging & putting away & taking back out again. She looked forward to visits from my Younger Daughter, Carolyn, who got the antiques gene that had skipped me. She & her Grommy talked hat pins & beaded purses & Bakelite jewelry. I’d go read.

Mom died in 2020 from complications of Parkinson’s. My brothers & I discussed What To Do for more than a year. Turning everything over to an expert for appraisals & sales seemed easiest. But during the quiet times of quarantine, I’d been thinking, too — about the joy Mom got from collecting, her enthusiasm when sharing finds with others, her directives to not break up this collection or split up that china set after she was gone. I remembered the times I rolled my eyes as new old things appeared week after week and my firm refusals every time she offered something she thought I might like but knew I wouldn’t take home. (Had I hurt her feelings? I’m afraid I probably did.) But I also remembered the project we’d started in the last year of her life — we’d pick out a room, she’d sit down & I’d go from object to object, asking questions & taking notes.

I wish I’d asked more questions & taken more notes.

But maybe I can do something similar now, I thought as the time for signing estate-sale contracts got closer. Maybe I could make up for my past impatience, my dismissiveness of china patterns & goblet styles & what does “Made in Japan” really mean? I couldn’t listen to my mom’s stories anymore, but maybe I could help create more. I could do my best to make sure her treasures were honored & celebrated even if I hadn’t done that during her life.

So Carolyn & I decided to manage things ourselves. As we clean out & organize & prep for sales, we’ll show you what we find & tell you what we find out. This is the place to share stories & memories — both ours & yours. Check back frequently for sale dates.