Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Cup of Grace

I woke this morning feeling sad - you could almost say bereft. Swimming up through the waves of drowse and languid torpor, I couldn't put my finger on the cause of the problem. I climbed out of bed, thinking it must have been a dream. While brushing my teeth, I remembered.

My tea cup was missing. My most beautiful tea cup, given to me by Marcie, Paula's friend (and now mine) who had come with her on her historic return visit in April and whose presence here in Dehradun somehow created the bridge between two worlds which had been lacking during Paula's time with us.

Not that Paula hadn't had visitors while she was here. Her mother had come three times; her daughter Carol came too. But we take family for granted for a reason. They come wherever we are. That's why they are family. When a friend comes it gives a different stamp of approval, a different kind of validity. It says our choices have been good ones, that someone whose only bonds are of friendship and affection wants to know what we've been doing for 12 years in a foreign land. And for those of us IN the foreign land, it says we are important parts of a dear friend's history and that it's vital for us to meet.

So Marcie's being here was special for all of us - Manju, Savita, Moy Moy, Ravi, me - all of us who owe Paula so much.

That's to explain the connection I felt with the tea cup. Paula and I had had thousands of cups of tea together over the years. Tea was my connection with my mother; is my connection with my daughter. Marcie pulled it all together with a gift of the most beautiful cup I had ever seen. And this morning, as I realized with a thud, it was still missing.

Had one of the staff broken it and feared to admit it, knowing how I prized it? The most likely explanation. A.W.O.L. for 36 hours? It seemed pretty clear that it had vanished for good.

For the next ten hours, the vague sadness remained. So silly. Only a cup. In the grand scheme, how did it matter? Marcie was still there. Paula, God Knows, was still there. Mom was watching over me. Cathleen and I predict each other's thoughts and dreams. I scolded myself every time the feeling of loss surfaced again. It's only a cup. Down, girl!

I came home from work today at 5:30. Creature of habit, I went to the shelf to take out the cup for my evening tea. Not there. Sadness. Then I wandered into the living room for one last search. And there it was, hidden on the mantelpiece behind the candle stand, exactly where I had left it, I now remembered, when the phone rang and I had run to pick it up.

I washed it carefully and prepared my tea, each step in the process a mindful, grateful one. Another moment. Another day. Another grace. Another cup of tea. My dear ones drinking with me.


Natasha said...

I can't put my finger on it, but teacups mean a lot to me too.
Nestled in one's hands, one of the few pieces of art that one can touch and use everyday.
And if there is time to sit and have tea, then life is OK, indeed.

Jo Chopra McGowan said...

"one of the few pieces of art that one can touch and use everyday"

Exactly, Natasha! Oh, nice. I hadn't thought if it that way, but that's exactly right.

Sonia Faleiro said...

What a beautiful piece, Jo ...

B.R. said...

Brilliant piece of work. I always felt that the best writers are those who are capable of transporting the readers to the very scene, the very mind and tease them to experience the same level of joy or sorrow. You are one of those of my favorite writers in the class of Sir Vidia, Isabel Wilkerson, Helene Cooper and our own Anand Giridharadas. WOW!!! just an ordinary tea cup did become an extraordinary and a powerful object through your skill of writing.

Jo Chopra McGowan said...

Rama, Wow, thank you so much! What compliments!

Anuradha said...

Brilliant writing