As a volunteer at my county museum, I am currently cataloging table linens. There is plenty of variety in this category, everything from decades-old redwork pillow shams to tatted tablecloths. This week I came across a set of crepe paper table napkins, dating probably to the early 20th century. They were delicately thin and fragile, but the strawberries and flowers printed on them were bright and clear. Their owner had kept them carefully away from sticky hands and sunlight, until her heirs ultimately donated them to the museum. I wondered about her. Did she ever intend to use them? Or were they just too special to be shared with teatime guests, then discarded.
I’m strongly in favour of using lovely things as they were meant to be used, rather than saving them for special occasions. Or, to put it another way, we can make everyday occasions special by using and enjoying the things we value. On the other hand, if the lady who treasured her paper napkins had followed my advice, we would not now have the pleasure of their delicacy and their vibrant colours.