The Family China
I've been slowly trying to integrate some of my parents' things into our home, and it's hard. I'm afraid of overdoing it, crowding out our own things, and yet so many objects have some specific memory attached to them, I can't let them go. Every time I come across a mundane object that carries no aura of meaning, I feel a surge of joy that I can toss something else in the thrift pile.
I hung a set of shelves with their old teacup collection on the wall of our dining room (sans dining table) the other day. I didn't even realize it as I was arranging them, but afterwards I noticed that the different colors of the mismatched cups picked up the palette of a cityscape painting I had placed nearby: green trees, blue sky, terra cotta brick buildings, each hue reflected in a teacup of its own.
These cups carried a powerful symbolism for me when I was small, the way things do in childhood. Each family member had a cup of their own, or at least I always made sure the "right" cup went to the right person when they were used at the end of dinner parties.
Dad got an English Tudor village motif, for the simple reason that it was mostly brown, and thus the most masculine cup in my opinion.
Mom's was easy: the green cup scattered with lilies of the valley. She loved these flowers, had even carried a bunch of them at her wedding, each threaded on an individual strand of wire so they would fit in the slim-necked perfume vial my father had given her to hold them.
While the adults drank their coffee and tea, I had hot chocolate, and was trusted to drink it from my favorite cup, the one adorned with strawberries and butterflies and bugs. Cocoa always tasted better from its gilded rim.
I grew up thinking of lily of the valley as a rare flower, seldom seen in your average garden, but darned if they aren't cropping up all over our corner of Cambridge and Somerville. For such tiny flowers, they give off a powerful scent, piercingly sweet .