A family’s tea cups speak to Bobbi Rankin
The English have a long-standing tradition of afternoon tea. It’s a social event, a way to meet people and when the chips are down they always find comfort and stability in coming together for tea and cucumber sandwiches.
This ancient tradition was carried over the pond by my great grandmother when her daughter, my grandmother, was very young. Their destination was a small town in Montana where they settled to live, work and raise their children. As my grandmother established her own home and family, she made it a point to serve afternoon tea. Serving tea in the dainty cups and saucers helped to bring to this uncivilized cowboy town, the civility and comfort this tradition represented.
My mother grew up with this tradition flowing through her veins and cherished her own cup of afternoon tea. I can still see this dignified woman (The 1950’s Woman) holding the saucer in her left hand and with her pinkie poised, the cup in her right. She would gaze out the window seemingly to remember the afternoon teas spent with her mother.
As the years went on and my parents left Montana to capture a new life in California, my mom brought along her cherished tea cup collection. This collection no longer sat on an open wooden shelf in the kitchen of their Montana countryside home. Instead, my mom created a place of honor for those precious porcelain pieces and the memories they inspired. She purchased a tall, lighted cabinet that proudly displayed her cup and saucer collection.
My mom never lost the place a cup of afternoon tea filled in her daily life, until came the time when this tradition was replaced with jobs and family related restraints. However, she held onto the pure enjoyment that drinking tea brought her and the place it held in the social gatherings of family and friends.
The day finally came when I had to decide what to do with her collection. While I do enjoy an occasional cup of tea, I’m a coffee drinker. When I would drink tea at my mom’s home, I’d gladly use her cup and saucer. Anywhere else, I’m happy with a mug. You see where this is going, I’m sure. Literally, what am I to do with this collection? My mom kept many things she never used. I’m one who keeps only what I use and let others have the overflow.
I did find a solution in giving away a set to any members of our family who wanted to treasure my mom’s memory. I too kept the set I most frequently used when sharing a cup with her. This English tradition doesn’t flow through my veins but the memory of that time of precious civility and afternoon tea with my mom comes flowing back to me whenever I see the set sitting proudly in the corner of my kitchen, right next to my favorite mug.
photos courtesy Bobbi Rankin
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