Monday, August 24, 2009

No Gilded Cage for This Gilded Cup

(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.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Toast to Amelia Peabody & Elizabeth Peters

Journal except 2/29/09

...Thanks to Amelia Peabody for introducing me to Whiskey & Soda – it really is as refreshing as she said. I was surprised when ...I tried it. She does not mention ice. I doubt they had any in Egypt circa 1894 to 1919.

...Recently laid off, I needed something to occupy me after a long hard day searching for the next job; sending out queries in hopes of a new freelance assignment; painting in hopes of hanging a show soon; and etc., etc., so I picked a prolific author I’d heard about to read from start to finish. I chose Elizabeth Peters’s Amelia Peabody series after thumbing through book one: Crocodile on the Sandbank. I read it straight through, and I was hooked. I figured 18 books should keep me occupied for a while. That was October 30th, my last day at Jefferson title. Thank you Elizabeth Peters, and thank you Birmingham public library. I finished book 18, Tomb of the Golden Bird, Thursday, February 15, 2 a.m. as the ice from my whiskey and soda sat melted with only a hint of the drink left behind.

...Obviously, being out of a job, I was not going to be buying anything non-essential. I’m not saying that books are non-essential. Books are essential, but Birmingham’s library system has almost every book I have ever requested. I can order them on line and have them sent to my convenient Southside location – walking distance (gotta get those daily steps in).

...It’s been a pleasant ride. Ms. Peters, with a PhD in Egyptology, weaves her knowledge of Egyptology into the plots so well, I feel I’m getting a bit of archaeological and anthropological knowledge while I'm being entertained.

...Books are doors into other worlds, people’s lives, and experiences. I am sorely tempted to start the series over again from the beginning, just to visit with Peabody and her entourage, again. People wonder (people who aren’t readers) why anyone would re-read books. To me a book is a friend, and re-reading is just like visiting with an old friend. They tell the same old stories, tell the same old jokes, and behave just as they have always done. Comforting, somehow.


© Perle Champion