I have three tea sets. My nicest set was recently passed on to me by my mother and was originally my Grandma Beth’s. It’s a Royal Albert set of bone china. Quite proper and very beautiful. A few years ago, my mother-in-law gifted me with a set from her family: a rather large and charming casual set of blue stoneware, plump and portly. They feel good in your hands. I frequently pull them out when I have company.
My oldest set, though, I must confess, is my favorite. I call it my “Alice in Wonderland” set. Much like that of the March Hare, it’s a mix-matched grouping of simple cups and saucers and pots of all colors and sizes. I rescued them from thrift shops, garage sales, and flea markets for the most part, for 25¢ here and $1 there. After a few years, I have service for eight now, and these random lost bits have grown into belonging to one another. Perhaps it’s not so fine as the bone china set painted with real gold, but I’m quite fond of my little set nonetheless. I like that I get choose my cup when I start the kettle boiling.
I have my favorites, of course. And there was one particular saucer that I found at a garage sale that I always loved. I don’t know why exactly. It’s nothing the average person would call special. It’s a simple white saucer rimmed in pink and blue, but there was something about the contours of it – the flatness – that I always loved. I eagerly paid my quarter for it and frequently singled it out for afternoon tea.
A few years after Shawn and I were married, we were living in a rented house with another couple. My housemate accidentally broke my saucer. There was no point for anger; accidents happen and one accepts that such things will undoubtedly occur with roommates about. What made me most sad about it was that I came home to find its shards unceremoniously piled in the garbage can. No note. No doubt my roommate saw it as just a 25¢ orphaned plate. Nothing special. She didn’t know I had any great attachment to it. I’m not sure that any sort of eulogy or explanation would have lightened my heart, but to see my afternoon friend in the garbage like so much trash grieved me, silly as it may seem.
I actually sifted through the can and attempted to find all the bits to glue together. Shawn helped. After a time, we gave it up for a lost cause. It was utterly smashed.
Just recently, killing time in a thrift shop downtown, I found myself in the section where the dishes are kept. I don’t plow through this area as avidly as I once did. My set is more or less complete now. Service for eight and more creamers and sugar bowls than I’d ever need, especially as I take neither cream nor sugar in my tea. But I was still one saucer short and sometimes I would detour through the dish section, just to see if anything special caught my eye. And on this rainy day a month ago, I was absently shifting through dusty dishes, and there it was. The very same saucer rimmed in pink and blue. Well, not the very same saucer, of course, unless plates are favored by reincarnation. But its exact twin. All alone, just as before. I paid 25¢ for it at the counter and took it home. I washed it and put it up on my tea shelf, where it belonged.
Life is busy these days and that little saucer slipped my mind for a time. But today, round about four o’clock when I set the kettle on the stove, I looked up at my tea shelf and picked out a yellow cup. Sitting beneath it was my pink and blue saucer, ready and waiting.
Nice to have tea with a friend.