I hold my grandmother’s teacup up to the light. You go quiet and look at me long. You know how I feel about my grandmother’s things, handed down. And you know how I feel about teacups in general. Each one I own holds a story. Some of the stories are new (my mom just got me a beautiful white and gold teacup for Christmas this past year). Some of the stories are old. Like the ones my grandmother’s teacup holds. Either way, I do not endure chips and cracks very well. It has ruined my mood.
“I’m sorry, ” you say. “Show me?”
I turn the teacup your way and point to the crack along an inner curve. There’s still a little tea wetting the bottom of the cup, but you put your finger into it anyway and run your tip lightly along the crack.
Now you whisper, “I’m sorry.” And I feel a little silly. It’s just a teacup after all. Just a thing. People shouldn’t care so much about things. That’s what everybody says. I’ve said it myself. But somehow I care about things. I care about this teacup. I care about the stories it holds.
“I can’t write when I’m in a mood like this, ” I say. “And anyway, who’d want to read about beginnings—those times that are supposed to be hopeful and promising—when I am not going to be cheery?”
I put my grandmother’s teacup down and my bottom lip pushes out into a grown-up pout that also makes me feel silly, but I want to do it, so here I am. It’s a beautiful morning. Tea, blueberries, the silver spoon, you and I laughing. And now… me. Pouting.
“Tell me about your grandmother?” you say.
“She was strong. She could push big wheelbarrows of manure up hill and down. She built a treehouse once. A huge one. Like a real house up in a crowd of trees. It was light green, and she painted the window frames dark green to match. There was a lake on her property, and every Sunday she got into her row boat and combed that lake to keep it free of water plants that would choke and ruin it. She made cherry pies for me every year on my birthday. She grew cherry trees, plum trees. She planted gooseberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries. Even a whole field of corn!
Once, I was following alongside her tractor-mower (she would mow acres of her property on that thing!) and the muffler looked so cool. Round and silver-rusty, with holes all over its top. Blue-grey smoke would puff out. I wanted to touch it. You know me. Touch, touch, touch. So I put my hand smack on the center of all those beautiful patterned holes. My skin peeled away. I had blisters for days and days. My grandmother changed the dressings, kept the skin clean, sprayed that cool anti-biotic pain-reliever stuff on my palm. When I cried at night, she came to my bed and put her hand on my forehead. ‘Liebchen, ‘ she’d say, and she’d recite a little German poem or hum a song.
I probably remember her zinnias most. Hot pink, yellows, reds, oranges. Petals layer upon layer, like fish-scales on a pin-cushion. Crowds of them everywhere! By the L-shaped driveway. In front of the little white house. Near the currant bushes. Oh, gosh. Her currant jelly. You never tasted anything like it.”
“You loved your grandmother.”
“And she loved you.”
“She did. She thought the world of me. Well, sometimes she drove me crazy. She was blunt. She had some hurts she couldn’t get past, and she spent her time telling me about them. I didn’t like that much.”
“But she loved you.”
“And you loved her.”
Now I am not looking at you anymore. I’m just listening to the sound of your voice. The way you care. The way you want to know. The way your voice holds all this and holds me too.
I pick up the teacup and look into the porcelain. I still feel silly when my eyes go moist and I put my finger into the cup, run my tip along the crack. But here I am.
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