The Life of a Tea Cup
“I’m a little teapot, short and stout…”
Allow me to correct our self-consumed teapot; we are an entire set of china. Not just a child’s play tea set, a set of china. I won’t shy from telling you what a handsome one we are, even though we are not Villeroy and Boch. Our teacups’ gold rims gleam, our platters have scalloped edges, and every single piece of us is tattooed by the same pink roses. Oh yes, every little piece imaginable rests among us, or I should say, once rested among us. We have seen better days.
It took us a long while to find one another. Those were miserable days. Ones where we were confined to the darkness of our cardboard prisons, the only light we saw seeping through corners, where piece met piece. Our theory is that in those dim days, we were on store shelves. I don’t believe that we had any owner in those days. Oh, but they are long past; we are not still bitter. We may have been in want of freedom and use, but we lacked no pride, for kept in our bubble wrap, our porcelain bodies knew neither chip nor scratch.
We didn’t fly off the shelves, but in time, someone did want us. It must have been the same someone because here we are together. If my memory holds true, the dinner plates came first, then the tea cups, teapot and so forth. Well, we had a more pleasant existence once together. Someone put us all in one box, but no one used us for a while. A glorious day came when the top was finally opened! A brown head peeked in on us, and chubby fingers grabbed at us selfishly. We thought we might finally see a kitchen.
Reluctantly, we played house with the clumsy little girl. By us, she nourished her teddy bears and Barbie dolls. We learned quickly to mourn when a tea cup met its shattered death at the edge of a table. We nursed our vanity in the beginning, but eventually relinquished it. We had no choice. Worry wouldn’t patch the chips or repair the cracks. We saw past the abuse to love our sweet tyrant. Happy years passed in the plastic kitchen, preparing imaginary meals, but the teapot yearned for a blazing stove, and the mugs prayed for scalding drinks. When play was at a lull and we were stacked all together, the cake plate boasted of the beautiful desserts that would rest upon his sleek surface. In the play kitchen, it was a selfless art of having fun, perhaps the best sort of fun.
In time, we were at rest more and more, until we sat completely idle. We’d come to think of ourselves as toys, and the abandonment brought us more grief than any bull could have. Our mistress was growing up. The casserole dish said he would love to sit in the false oven again, even if he shivered. The sugar dish no longer cared to see a real grain of sugar.
One day her brown eyes fell on us. We are dishes, we cannot move, but then it seemed every one of us straightened up. “Please play with us,” rang the clatter of thoughts. She didn’t play with us. No, the lot of us were wrapped in newspaper and stowed in the cedar chest that sat at the foot of her bed. It was dark again. Really it wasn’t so bad. We were not the only things in there. We were reunited with the linen napkins that we used to visit with at tea parties. Occasionally she opened the chest and added something new. So silver joined us, forks and knives and spoons of every shape and purpose. Why we hadn’t seen them at tea time, we didn’t know. A quilt joined us too.
We stayed in the chest for some time. Every time she opened the chest, we saw changes in our girl. Her hair grew long, and she traded in her darling sundresses. Her plump cheeks slimmed down and shone with rouge.
A day arrived again when the top was opened, not to add more pieces to the collecting house goods but a day where we all came out. We rejoiced. Till we saw our fate. We could hear the clatter of ourselves in the trashcan before we even made it there. “Old fashioned.” Why, we still had a crumb of vanity left and well, to us it sounded like she said we were ugly as sin. I’ll never forget the words that saved our fragile lives. “When you grow up, you will wish you had those things.”
We were shipped directly to the attic. When we first arrived, the place was as hot as an oven, and the dust—we thought we would never be free of the dust. Soon it grew cool, then cold. We are made to stand heat, but the cold was brutal. We were miserably bored. The only time we saw a soul was when they came to retrieve a tree and when they put it back. We shivered till the attic again became an oven.
Like all other seasons, this one did eventually pass. Our brown-headed beauty rescued us. The newspaper came crinkling off, and we found ourselves in the little kitchen of our mistress. There were other girls in the little apartment. They used us too, but we of course liked ours best. She burnt meals to begin with, when first she used us. When finally she got the hang of it, we were so proud of her, but more of ourselves. The cake platter had yet to see a cake and the teapot didn’t make much tea, but the plates and bowls and coffee mugs especially saw lots of use. It seemed the girls always had their nose in some big book and their hand around a cup of coffee.
Time seemed to fly by. It makes me wonder if others enjoy their jobs nearly as much. No, they can’t possibly. I believe years passed before we were packed away by bubble wrap in layers upon layers. It was blindingly dense, as if wrapped by a spinster aunt that worried far too much. Then the wrapping popped off and exposed us to a beautiful kitchen. Ah, we were home at last! This was no plastic kitchen, not even the apartment we’d come from. Oh, this was a kitchen. We were put in the cabinet along with other dishes. They were snobs. A look at their bottom side told why. Still, we didn’t view ourselves differently, because they stayed in the cabinet far more than we did.
I guess by now I ought to stop referring to our mistress as a girl. By this point in our story, she was very much a lady. Her cooking had improved tremendously, and she cooked wonderful meals every single night for her and a pleasant man, who always scraped us clean. Every morning there was coffee with cream and sugar, and on the most pleasant mornings, it was coffee in bed for the two of them. After years of the quiet life, little ones came along and we fed them too. A little boy came first. The clumsy child never meant any harm but always managed to spill something. Next a blue-eyed girl arrived. She was cooking before she could walk; never had we seen such messes. The children grew up too quickly.
Now our mistress and master have lost their youth. The hands that pull us from the dark cool cabinets aren’t so pretty as they once were, but neither are we. Most days it’s just the two of them we feed. Other days it’s a whole crowd of children and grandchildren.
As for our future, it’s not a thought any of us prefer. Although we are, we don’t like to think of ourselves as old enough for an antique store. I hope we don’t wind up there. That’s a good way for us to get split up, and we’ve grown to be a family. For now I’ll enjoy being a teacup with my little porcelain family, and savor every little moment.