If so, I encourage you to bring it out and use it. No, not for its original purpose, but for other uses. I use my childhood silver regularly today. I use my silver baby mug to drink water in our city bath, where the little mug is a sweet connection to my childhood and won’t break if I drop it. (Years ago I used it to hold cigarettes during parties when we all still smoked.) The silver bowl from which I was fed as a baby I now use to serve nuts or dip during cocktails. And I’ve never ceased using my childhood English nursery-rhyme napkin ring. As far as a teething ring goes, I needn’t think of an alternate use since I lost mine decades ago. My mother used her babyhood silver porringer as an ashtray, and she used her silver baby bowl to feed the cat. There are all sorts of uses for baby silver!
And what if you don’t have any? Well, then you might consider buying some for yourself to use for more adult purposes. Silver baby mugs and bowls are easily found on eBay and in antiques group shops, usually very reasonably priced. So what if they have someone else’s name or initials on them—that didn’t dissuade my grandmother from buying silver for me and my siblings when we were wee little things.
Baby Reggie in the arms of his godfather Henry Firestone
My family lived in Grosse Pointe when my parents were building their family, just a few blocks from my father’s parents. My grandmother, Granny Darling, believed that each of her grandchildren should have his or her own baby silver, and she saw to it that each of us was provided with it. And I’m grateful that she did. Thank you, Granny.
photo by Bachrach
At the time we lived in G.P., many of the estates that lined Lake St. Clair were being razed and divided; smaller houses, still lovely and commodious, arose on smaller plots of land. My mother and Granny Darling enjoyed trolling the estate sales, and they also haunted auctions held by DuMouchelles in Detroit. These were fertile grounds for acquiring all manner of things for the house, including good furniture, china, and linens. And they were the sources for where my thrifty Granny Darling bought her grandchildren’s silver.
It was never considered odd or unusual that the silver we had as children was engraved with other people’s names or initials. Besides, there was plenty of silver on hand that had our own family’s names or initials on it that had been handed down from previous generations (my mother was the only daughter of an only daughter of an only daughter, each of whom was given full services when married). I often wondered as a child, “Who were these people whose silver I used?” It was amusing to make up stories about the people whose names appeared on my childhood silver, and to give them imagined personalities.
Recently I took my baby mug and bowl to a silversmith and had the interiors re-gilt, as most of the gold had worn off over the years. I think they really look quite spiffy now, and taking care of them as I have adds to the pleasure I find while using them today, as does knowing that future babies—and wise adults—will likely someday use them, too.
Tell me, do you still use your baby silver?
All color photographs by Boy Fenwick