Like most people, my family did things a little differently for Thanksgiving in 2020.

I moved in with my mother for “a few months” in March following the end of a relationship, which left my housing up in the air. COVID-19 hit Maine about a week later. I will forever be grateful for the mysterious kismet which led to this so neither of us have been forced to endure the past 20 months alone.

So, Thanksgiving was just the two of us. Mom got a roast beef from Wiggins Meat Market and we feasted like the Whos in Whoville. It was both fancy and delicious.

My G-ma had passed away in April. By Thanksgiving we were still not able to have a funeral or memorial service for her. I was not able to be with my family or to grieve fully. It still did not seem quite real.

As part of the grieving I was able to do during that time, I took an inventory of the physical things I had of G-ma: gifts she bought for me; quilts she made; precious trinkets and heirlooms she had passed down.

One of these items was a set of fine china. I asked Mom if we could please use this china to serve the Thanksgiving meal.

I had been in possession of this 96-piece set for years and had never used it. This seemed like an appropriate first use. My mom agreed.

As the oldest grandchild, I had first pick of the china sets when they were being distributed.

While I loved the pattern — a delicate pine tassel with gold accents — it was the story of these dishes that really drew me to them.

My G-da, Tom, was serving in the Navy in Sasebo, Japan during the Korean conflict in the early 1950s. During his liberty, he went ashore and purchased this set from a china shop. There was nothing in particular about this set; he just liked the pattern.

“I got quite a bit of china while I was over there,” he told me.

He bought a tea set for one of his neighbors and one for his mother, Evelyn, as well.

The Navy shipped all these back to the states. My grandfather kept the 96-piece set.

When he married my G-ma in 1958, the couple had both good china and everyday china.

“We used it as our good china when we were first married,” he said of the set from Japan.

My G-ma was an amazing woman. She lived all over the country and travelled all around the world. During these trips she made and maintained lasting friendships.

She raised three children, and was an active member of the church in every community where she lived.

She loved spiders, and had a collection of spider decorations, jewelry and books. I would read her anthology of spider myths and legends over and over.

She had tea parties with my sister and I, which she used as an excuse to teach us proper table manners.

G-ma would keep a supply of random gifts on hand in case someone unexpected visited during a holiday. Nobody was going to be without a Christmas gift at her house!

The year my mother’s side of the family was unexpectedly ill, and we were left suddenly without plans, my G-ma invited us to her house. My parents had been divorced for at least 25 years at that time, and my father was living in Mississippi.

But family is about more than just blood ties, so we spent the holiday with G-ma and G-da.

So in the spirit of family and legacy, my mother and I enjoyed our unconventional Thanksgiving and made new memories with my grandmother’s fine china from Japan.

Christine Simmonds is the Assistant Editor of The Courier-Gazette. She has lived in Knox County most of her life.

G-ma’s fine china on Thanksgiving 2020. Photo by Christine Simmonds