My mother-in-law is a very lovely, proper and Southern lady. Very proper. I did not grow up in the South although it has been my home now for most of my adult life. I didn’t grow up saying “Yes, ma’am”. I called adults by their first name and only their first name. Shocking I know! I did not get the appropriate training to be a proper Southern lady.
The first night I met my now mother-in-law, she asked,”What is your silver pattern, honey?”
Silver Pattern? I had only been dating her son a few months but I had already fallen hard. I really wanted to impress his parents. Oh, dear. Silver Pattern? I said the only thing I could think of…. Oneida. Yes, as you can imagine, Oneida was certainly not what she was expecting. I’m sure she just cringed inside, but being the polite Southern woman she is, she didn’t let it show. And I blissfully went along with the evening, never knowing the plot that was taking place behind the scenes.
The next morning I woke up to find a book outside my door. A little book with a few pages marked. The pages that told me what my silver pattern meant about me. Oneida was not listed. But a lot of other beautiful patterns were and I quickly read each one, searching frantically for my “perfect” pattern. Obviously this question needed an answer and I intended to provide one.
This is an excerpt from the hilarious and wonderful book.
THE TWELVE PATTERNS OF THE SOUTHERN SILVER ZODIAC
1. Francis I Reed and Barton The Belle who chooses Francis I is a girl who wants it all. There are twenty-eight pieces of fruit just on the knife handle. It’s showy and opulent and so is she. A Francis I girl is likely to want a husband, children, a place on the board of the Junior League, and a full-time career. There is no end to what she can buy in the Francis I pattern. It comes with pickle forks, tomato forks, shrimp forks, lobster forks, grapefruit spoons, dessert spoons, ice cream spoons, even half olive spoons. Francis I girls are always compatible with mothers-in-law who have Grand Baroque or Burgundy. Their styles are similar.
2. Grand Baroque Wallace International This is Francis I with roses instead of fruit. Grand Baroque girls also have a sense of the dramatic. But they often also have a literary bent. That’s why you can buy a sterling silver bookmark in the Grand Baroque pattern. Grand Baroque girls often date boys whose families have the Acorn pattern. But they don’t marry them. It’s just a youthful rebellion.
3. Burgundy Reed and Barton This is Francis I without the fruit. Burgundy girls tend to be somewhat shy. They have dreams of being splashy, but they just can’t let go. Louisiana girls love Burgundy. It shows up on a lot of tables during Mardi Gras. They do well with friends who have Buttercup. They are not made to feel too competitive.
4. Rose Point Wallace International Old-fashioned girls pick this pattern. It’s very popular with girls named Rose. Sentimental mothers who have chosen patterns like Old Master and Eloquence sometimes name their daughters Rose just so they can have a legacy all their own.
5. Buttercup Gorham Belles who choose Buttercup are always cheerful. They even choose the pattern because it’s so uplifting. Buttercup girls have friends with every kind of pattern. They are usually followers rather than leaders, but they are just so upbeat it really doesn’t matter.
6. Chantilly Gorham Belles with Chantilly tend to be a bit prissy. They do best with men whose mothers also have Chantilly. Never put a Chantilly girl with a man whose mother has Francis I or Grand Baroque. They will always be upstaged. Don’t let all that sweetness fool you. Chantilly girls were often fast in high school.
7. Strasbourg Gorham Strasbourg girls are traditionalists and just a bit formal. As good Southern girls, they are entranced with anything that’s festive and use their good silver almost all the time. Southern men love girls who pick Strasbourg because when Strasbourg girls bring out the good silver, they also bring out the good food. They don’t mix well with boys whose mothers have Buttercup. They will both always fight for control.
8. Acorn Georg Jensen Beware of the Acorn girl. This pattern is lovely but foreign (it comes from Denmark). Girls who pick Acorn are rebellious. They march in parades and sometimes have been known to go to colleges in the East and drink beer straight from the can.
9. Old Master Towle Old Master girls have spirit but don’t drift too far from tradition. Because of this they are fiercely attached to their family heirlooms. One Texas Belle got thirty place settings of her groom’s grandmother’s Old Master as a wedding gift. When she got a divorce, she took her husband to court over the Old Master and let him keep the Cadillac without a whimper.
10. Eloquence Lunt Eloquence girls like nice things. They expect their husbands to provide. They are extremely loyal whether it’s a boyfriend, a best friend, or a pet. Because of this they get along well with more flighty girls who have Francis I or Grand Baroque.
11. Chrysanthemum Tiffany These girls have been known to turn up their noses at Francis I girls. They are just as flamboyant and just as demanding. They also usually have a lot more money to spend. Their husbands have to be good providers because they also insist on Tiffany crystal and Tiffany china. This is a relatively new pattern compared to some of the others. Girls with Chrysanthemum sometimes go really wild and live in avant-garde homes. But don’t worry, they still cut the crusts off their tea sandwiches and their daughters always get good recommendations to Kappa, Theta and Pi Phi.
12. Repousse Kirk Repousse is one of the oldest silver patterns. These girls often have mothers and grandmothers who also have this pattern. One Charleston woman explains every woman in her family for three generations chose this pattern. Then her son married a woman who didn’t even have a silver pattern. (uh oh) The mother-in-law insisted she pick something out and had relatives fill in the place settings. When the new bride completely bypassed Repousse by calling it “too fussy”, the mother-in-law knew the marriage wouldn’t last. And it didn’t.
By the time I finished reading all that, I felt dazed, confused and lost. Too many choices, too much information. Ugh! After a wonderful church service preached by my future father-in-law, we arrived back home for Sunday dinner. The table was beautifully set, including a ton of gorgeous silver. And thankfully, I recognized it from the book! Hallelujah!
“That’s Strasbourg, right? That’s my silver pattern.” Whew. If she liked it, I liked it. And actually I did like it.
Pretty, scalloped, feminine…. I loved it. That day Strasbourg became my silver pattern. Oneida was no more. And thanks to my in-laws, I now am the proud owner of eight place settings! I also *might* have noticed that a lot of her Strasbourg was engraved with the letter “B” and my chance of inheriting it all was pretty good. Still waiting on that though!