I have no idea why my grandmother wants me to have this.
Delicate and beautiful, it is an incongruous thing. I think I’ll be too afraid to ever pour water into these fragile cups, and the plates would barely hold a quarter of a slice of bread. What, I wonder, am I to do with this?
Even more though, I wonder at my grandmother owning such a thing. In a lifetime filled with sturdy mugs of coffee and generously apportioned baked goods, when did she use this? Was it a wedding gift? Did she as a young woman, already too familiar with pain, hardship and loss, treasure these pretty cups and the carefully nested sugar bowl? Were these something she held on to in hopes of better times and a life lived differently?
And what of me, her unsentimental spinster granddaughter? Did a memory of a time when I marveled at the color and shape of the plates as a child inspire her to give the set to me now as she sheds everything from this life? Was it a gift from a female relative of her own that she wanted to give to her only granddaughter? Whatever her reasons, she was insistent that I get them.
What was she trying to tell me with this unexpected inheritance?
I don’t think I’ll ever know. While my grandmother is still alive, she is fading fast. I don’t know if she even remembers me anymore, let alone the thought behind the gift.
I’ll treasure the tea set, and some day perhaps give it to my beloved niece, my grandmother’s namesake. And when I give it to her, I’ll tell her of her great-grandmother. I’ll make her laugh by telling funny stories from when I was a little girl about both of my beloved grandmas. I’ll teach her to make way too much food for every family gathering because you just never know who else might come to the door hungry. I’ll remind her that she and I have been awfully lucky to grow up in a loving home because my grandmother didn’t have that as a child.
Then I’ll show her my hands, so much like my mother’s and my grandmother’s, and tell her that, while we can never truly know what’s in another’s head, we can look to what they do and how they treat us to reveal what’s in their heart.
And then I will hug her and tell her I love her. Just like my grandmother taught me.