The Family Silver

Back in the ’60s, many suburban homes had a silver set proudly displayed in the dining room.  Our mothers had them and our grandmothers had them; they were in our friends’ houses and glimpsed in the dining room scenes on TV sitcoms.

IMG_3767The family silver sets were a tangible sign of success and a mark of class.  In an era when people might be invited over, in coats and ties and cocktail dresses, for a fancy sit-down dinner, silver place settings and coffee pots might be used occasionally.  And you always got the sense that your mother and grandmothers wanted to be ready in case the Queen of England unexpectedly dropped by for tea.

Over the years, our mothers inherited the family silver from our grandmothers, and now our mothers have no use for them any longer.  So, our generation stores these ornate, scrolled, increasingly tarnished objects, but nobody uses them.  I’ve never been served from a silver teapot or dish, or eaten with a silver spoon.  No surprise there — silver is a pain to keep polished and probably gives food and drink a slight metallic tang, besides.  I can’t imagine any of our friends serving high tea or inviting us for a formal meal with fine china and silver utensils.

So, what to do with this stuff?  Kish did some did some digging and found that these once-treasured objects are not really worth much.  No one is buying silver tea sets, so there is no resale market.  If it’s sterling silver, it can be sold and melted down.  And if it’s silver plate?  Well, one woman Kish talked to said if there were little girls in the family they could use it to make their tea time play more realistic.

Imagine . . . from a prominently displayed source of family pride to little more than a kid’s plaything, in the course of one generation.  What does that tell you about putting too much stock in material items?


I’ve noted before that I am a big fan of Apple products.  I love my iMac and my iPod, and I’ve grown accustomed to my iPhone.  But, you have to draw a line somewhere — and I confess that I wouldn’t sell a kidney to buy an iPad.

That distinguishes me, evidently, from a teenage boy in China who sold his kidney so he could buy an iPad and iPhone.  The teenager, who apparently was recruited into the scheme through an on-line chat room, received $3,000 for his kidney and used the money to buy the Apple products. Chinese police have arrested five people who were part of the scheme, including the surgeon who removed the kidney.  The five allegedly were paid $35,000 for the kidney.

The scheme unraveled when his mother noticed the new stuff, asked him where he got them, and he admitted to selling his kidney to fund the purchases.  (How can that be?  Was it out-patient surgery, for God’s sake?  Hard to believe that Mom wouldn’t notice her son gimping around with a huge abdominal incision.)

We often hear about how ours is a materialistic society, but apparently we’ve got nothing on the Apple-crazy Chinese.  Selling an organ to buy an iPad reaches a new, and sick, frontier in gross materialism.  And incidentally, the teenager who agreed to the deal is now reported to be suffering from renal failure.  Let’s hope he doesn’t have to trade his iPad and iPhone for dialysis treatments.