Once upon a time there was a young girl who loved tea parties. One summer, all her friends came over with their dolls and everyone dressed up in fancy dresses and bonnets and they had a splendid tea party.
Shortly after this event, a lovely elderly lady who took delight in these events decided to give her childhood tea set to the young girl. The girl remembers that day as a bright and shining day in her childhood. She remembers climbing the steps to the large veranda of the Victorian house with her mother. Inside the home, there were ornate chairs. Lace and velvet draperies hung at the windows. Gone-with-the-wind lamps graced the tables. For the young girl it was a lovely glimpse into a lifestyle grace and elegance.
The tea set was brought out. It was so beautiful. Delicate white porcelain painted with roses in shades of pink and gold. The edges were trimmed in gilt. The young girl was beyond herself with delight! It was a magical gift!
All through her childhood, on special occasions, the tea set, which was usually carefully stored away in a purple box, was brought out and used. When the girl grew up she lovingly displayed it in her china cabinet. And on special occasions, the grown girl delighted in making tiny treats to serve with cambric tea to her own children. And so the tea set became a part of her children’s memories too.
Then tragedy struck in the form of a house fire. As in the rest of the house, nearly everything in the china cabinet was destroyed but by chance, most of the tea set survived though it was crusted in tough black soot and the painted decorations stained. The grown girl was heartbroken that the tea set was so damaged. But she packed it away, soot and all to save for when she had more heart to salvage it.
Sometime later, the box with the tea set was brought out and the pieces set to soak. The beautiful painted decorations dissolved into nothingness and what little gilt remained was heavily impregnated by soot. But the woman lovingly and carefully scrubbed away at each tiny piece until the porcelain shown bright and clean and tiny areas of gilt emerged.
The girl, as you may have guessed, is myself. I received the set around 1962 from the lovely Mrs. Pike who was in her 80’s at the time so the tea set likely dates to the 1880’s or 1890’s. The set had been Mrs. Pike's as a young girl.
Today the tea set still gives me delight and is one of my cherished possessions! The original set had 6 teacups and saucers, 4 plates, a teapot, creamer and sugar bowl. Before I received the set, one cup was lost. In our fire, the creamer was damaged beyond repair and one of the remaining teacups cracked. I suspect that the 4 plates were not part of the original set as the pattern and quality does not match that of the tea set. Since the fire, I have added small butter pat plates to the set. They are the perfect size to compliment it!
If anything, the tea set is more beautiful than ever to me. The pristine white allows the embossed designs to shine. A history of the tea set’s cherished use through the years of use is evident in the small scratches and worn places that are now permanently stained by soot. And once again, the tea set graces my china cabinet.