Friday, March 09, 2007

The tea cup...

I have a china tea cup and saucer that sits on a shelf in my office. I love to look at it. It's really pretty, a delicate pink rose floral pattern with gold leaf along the top edge and the handle. It's stamped with "Victoria, Bone China, Made in England" on the bottom. My husband's grandmother gave it to us several years ago.

As with most everything she owns, she had a story that went along with the tea cup. The story was that this was her son's (my father-in-law's) favorite cup. He loved this cup, she said. Always had to use this particular cup. Used to tell her that he'd never marry a girl who didn't love this cup and take good care of it for him. That was the story that grandma always told about the tea cup and saucer she had given us.

Not so much the story that I heard from her son.

Once, when my father-in-law--supposed lover of said cup--came to visit, I pointed out "his" cup to him. I relayed the story that his mom had told me about the cup, thinking it would bring warm memories, and please him that the story behind the cup had been passed on.

His face went blank. He paused for a moment--just a moment--before he said something just short of "my mother is a crazy woman who makes up things that have no basis in reality."

And this, and only this, is why I keep that tea cup on the shelf in my office.

I love to look at that tea cup and be reminded that life is viewed through subjective eyes. I look at that cup to be comforted, understanding that no matter how hard I try, the way I see things will not be the way other people--even people I love--see them. I could strive to do every single thing right as a wife, friend, mother, etc. and still our stories wouldn't match up. Because we all filter our stories through our own personalities, our own life experiences, and our own sense of what is important.

Looking at that cup makes me fret just a little bit less when I mistakes. Maybe some of those mistakes will be the stories that aren't remembered. And yet, looking at the cup also makes me a little more careful. Maybe something done or said in a seemingly small moment will be a story that IS remembered. That cup silently witnesses that I have little control over what people choose to remember about me. I can only live the best life I can and hope that the scales will balance out in favor of my being a good person.

I don't know which story is true about the tea cup on my shelf. Nor do I care to know. The truth is what they believe it to be. I suppose I could put them both in a room and let them shout it out, who is right and who is wrong in the whole "Significance of The Tea Cup" Debate, but what good would that do?

I'll just keep the cup on the shelf, my own personal lesson in perspective.


Awesome Mom said...

It truly is interesting to see how different people see the world. My own grandmother is very horrible at rewriting history in her own mind. It was quite eyeopening to talk to other members of the family and find out that many of the things she was telling me were just not true.

Mean Mommy said...

That's something great to think about.

Just thinking of the earliest things I remember in my life--they're probably not the things my parents would think I'd remember. Catching a praying mantis in the backyard, winning a goldfish at a carnival, being given a candy necklace...none of the big 'let's do something fun and make memories' moments. I hope the few things that carry through in my kids' memories are happy ones.

Anne/kq said...

It's hard when you are caught between two stories. Every story changes in the telling; some change in the remembering.

I think this is the point of journaling (in whatever form-- mine is blogging.) To preserve these things as they happen, before the stories change.