The plates had been at the back of the kitchen cupboard for a long time. They had belonged to my parents until we bought our first flat and my mother had given them to us. The homespun patterns under the glaze dated the plates to the years around my own birth. I remembered them from my childhood kitchen - the patterns emerging as the mashed potatoes and gravy were eaten. The plates, along with the matching bowls and cups, had quietly been retired by the time my parents moved to their current house but you didn’t throw away crockery that was perfectly good.
My wife and I had used the plates for many years despite their old-fashioned patterns and our ownership of a much nicer dinner service that had been a wedding present. Eventually, we had bought our own crockery and my parents’ patterned plates had been retired for a second time. We have inherited our parents’ inability to throw away serviceable crockery as well as their serviceable crockery.
But now our son is going away to University and, like my mother before me, I am able to unload the plates with a clean conscience. Our eighteen year-old will not notice the patterns which, now I look at them, look charmingly retro rather than old-fashioned. I suspect that this will be their final go round. The chances of their surviving student life long enough to be retired to the back of a cupboard to wait for the next generation must be slight.