Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lesson of the Sugar Bowl Lid

Years ago, when we still lived in Brooklyn, someone gave us a beautiful sugar bowl and cream pitcher made of bone china and decorated with a scattering of dainty roses on a white ground.  The sugar bowl lid was particularly charming.  It had a knob formed in the shape of a delicate rosebud that was just beginning to open.

Now I have always been something of a klutz.  Plates fly out of my hands to smash in the sink.  Glasses overturn and dive for the floor.   (I knocked over three wineglasses on our first date, so it’s not as if my husband didn’t get fair warning.)  Fearing I would break it, I was particularly careful with the lid.  Unless we were having company, I kept it on a high shelf in our china cupboard and soon I forgot about it.  

Time passed.  The cream pitcher was broken in the first six months.  The sugar bowl lasted four or five years longer.  One handle got chipped, the other was broken off entirely when I went to put it away too quickly and bumped it on the cabinet door.  I finally tossed it and bought a sturdier one with an unexceptional lid.

When we moved a year later, I discovered that china sugar bowl lid still tucked away on a high shelf.  The tiny rosebud was intact and unchipped, yet without its bowl, it was totally useless and I regretfully consigned it to the trash.

Fast-forward ten years to a magical summer that my husband, our son, and I spent in Scotland.  One of our favorite walks was along a river where blue forget-me-nots bloomed freely at the edge of the water.  In a wild spot, silhouetted against the morning sky, were giant plants that reminded me of parsley on steroids:  stalks eight feet tall that terminated in umbels with multiple florets.  I never did learn what they were, but when I saw a coffee mug with those same flower heads, I bought it as a souvenir.

Back home, I started to put the mug on a high shelf so that I wouldn’t accidentally break it.  And suddenly I remembered the sugar bowl lid, tucked away in a cupboard, unused.  It might as well have been broken the first month we owned it for all the good it had been.  Fearful of

breaking that rosebud knob, I had denied myself the pleasure of its beauty.

Then and there I decided that I was going to enjoy my mug.  If it got broken, I would be sorry, but for as long as it lasted, it would remind me each morning of the fun we had on that trip and the way sunlight sparkled on the river and turned those fleshy stalks and leaves translucent.

That was almost 25 years ago.  I still drink my coffee from it every day.  It has a tiny chip on the handle, another on the lip, but it’s still here, still reminding me to enjoy the things that I once kept on high shelves —  the whimsical sterling serving pieces I’ve found in flea markets when doing book tours, the signed first editions that friends have given me, the hand-thrown pieces of pottery I acquired while researching Uncommon Clay, the antique wooden bowl I found when working on Killer Market.  If they break, or get scratched, or wind up with coffee stains, that’s okay.    While they last, they are cherished.  

And used.

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