(Originally published in Victoria Magazine under another title)
...I broke another one this morning. Now, I’m down to one. I raise it now to sip hot dark amber from its gilt-edged porcelain mouth. Gently, I set it back in place in its own saucer. I am sometimes tempted to put it up – this well-traveled survivor of family treks across England and the United States – but I can’t.
...I don’t remember when mother acquired the china, nor does she. I recall I was six in 1955 when Daddy got orders for England and took us with him. We lived at Wadenhoe House, a Jacobean manor house but a castle to me. There service for six suddenly appeared in our china cabinet one day - cups, saucers, plates and the serving dish.
...I never saw mother take the china from the cabinet; I could look but not touch. It was and still is so beautiful to me. Made in England, the bone china is white and a pale pink, its scalloped edges carefully painted with roses and posies in 22ct gold.
...In 1958, we moved by plane, train, then car to an Air Force base in a small west Texas town called Pyote. When mother unpacked her carefully wrapped treasures, she found one fractured saucer and a broken cup. I thought, how sad, we never used it, and it broke anyway.
Moving every three years took us to Albuquerque, New Mexico then back to Texas. By the time Daddy retired, the china set was down to three cups, four saucers and plates and the serving dish. Still, Mother displayed it with her fine pieces.
...I always asked to use the china when I stopped by for coffee. Mother hesitated at first, but as time passed, I no longer had to ask. One day she gave me the set, saying, “It should be yours. I was afraid they’d break, so I only ever used them once, and still they broke one by one. I know you’ll use it and not be afraid.”
...I’m not afraid, and I do use my things, and now only one cup and saucer, four plates and the serving dish are left, along with numerous pictures and memories.
...I wondered as a child – and fancy still. Could inanimate objects have feelings? If I put this old cup up on a safe high shelf behind glass doors, would she be lonely sitting there day after day – untouched, unused? Would this old cup miss the warmth of French roast coffee or the pale citrine of green tea? Her full bowl delivers the soft scent of teas and the hard edge of European roast coffees.
...Would she miss my touch or my conversation with cat and plant and page? Would she feel less a cup if I put her up? For a cup is what a cup is, or is she less for becoming an object d’art? Should she be declared too old, too precious, too fragile, and so declared, be relegated to the dusty domain of other admired and unused things, to old to be useful.
...No. Perhaps I’ll be a little more careful. I’ll take a few more pictures to remember her by.
There are already pictures of her on the glass coffee table on the balcony next to the porch swing. I have another on the desk with my old glasses and journal and my favorite gold pen. Another shares space with my first cat, Sabrina, on my all too cluttered desk late at night lit by an old lamp. She, filled with tea and my cat in slumber my only company, as I wrote nightly, racing against the dawn that heralded a new day’s duties that would take me from words I longed to write.
...Yes, in her own way, this gilded cup is a comfort and joy – a guardian of golden memories and a priceless companion.