Gilded, hand painted, embossed with a pattern or plain, weightless in the hand, delicate to hold and durable despite their fragile looking nature, fine bone English china cups were my mothers good dishes.
Hold them up to a light and see through them. Look straight through the inside down to the bottom, straight through the inside hold it close to the light, and the shadow markings are seen. In the light the bottom of the fine bone china glows and it tells all it’s secrets.
Move away from the light , and the magic markings fade, the bottom looses its translucent glowing nature, and the china cup becomes again, just a smooth dainty vessel.
My mother had different favorite cups, one for the morning and one for the afternoon and the morning cup was never ever used for the afternoon coffee and vice versa. Tea cups with saucers were for tea, and coffee cups were for coffee. Tea cups were wide-brimmed open flower like, and not very tall. Coffee cups were mugs, taller cylindrical shapes with larger handles for fingers to wrap inside and around thumb on top. Tea cup handles were more for show, on a tea-cup handle one pinches between thumb and the first two fingers, never ever do you wrap your little fingers through a tea-cup handle, at least not after age 5, it just isn’t done.
She was particular about her china, not just the make, only English Bone China, but the shape and the way the cup felt in her hand was of the utmost importance. “Too heavy” she would say as she held the possible purchase shifting it from hand to hand with a sigh. Too heavy was the most common complaint when it came to cups. There were others especially for coffee cups, too wide a brim, too bowl like and the contents cooled to quickly. Like a Scottish Goldy Locks and the porridge, chairs and beds, my mothers cup had to be just right.
The contents of the cup, even more so.
“Bill! When in the creation of Christ have I ever had coffee this color?” a frequent complaint mother used to chastise my father for not being generous enough with the half and half. He would dutifully retreat and add more cream, laughing usually, and returned only when it was the predetermined proper Helen Gardner approved color.
This everyday occurence we kids called “The Helen and Bill Show”.
The Helen and Bill Show, like the Road Runner and Wile. E. Coyote really didn’t have a strict antagonist/protagonist roles.
Like the cartoon, all of my parents shows followed the same predictable pattern.
Dad was sent out for product A, and no matter how specific the instructions, no matter how complete the list, no matter how accurate the map of Smitty’s Big Town, or even Fry’s Grocery, Dad always returned without product A. Whether it was the wrong brand, size or heaven forbid he came back empty-handed, Dad like Wile E. Coyote and his Acme products, could never win.
Wile E. had cliffs, and looks of doom as he waved goodbye in mid-air before the drop.
Dad didn’t have cliffs, just waves of angry words he would have to wade through, and he always did, and the show always ended with a
“Ah come on Ellie,” and then laughter, a cuddle, an embrace and it was all forgotten, they never kept score. Never held a grudge.
If they had a cell phone in 1975, The Helen and Bill Show would never have aired in my house, I used to wish Dad had one, thinking that it could have saved my dad a lot of trouble. Now I know it would have been a terrible loss, not witnessing all that loud loving conflict resolution The Helen and Bill Show Style. By resolution I mean of course…my mother was always right.
I have proof.
My first piece of evidence is this.
The day my sister Elaine moved out, (she who gave me my love from all things Tolkien) she unloaded a priceless pearl of wisdom so powerful so profound I am still in her debt. As my sister packed her bag, I watched from the doorway. She turned to me and said,
“Mom is always right”
“But Elaine, she isn’t! Just yesterday…”
“Mom is always right” she repeated slowly.
It only took about three more exchanges of similar content for the meaning of her words to finally sink in.
Ah… Mom is always right.
Even when she isn’t. Elaine was trying to save me years of knocking my head against the solid ever standing stubborn wall that was my mother….. I so wish I would have listened…
My real proof came years later, after my mother died, and it came straight from my father.
Dad was up early the morning after mom died. I awoke to the sound of my childhood, the sound of a tinkling teaspoon spoon stirring round and round in a coffee cup. Which was strange because five years earlier Dad had a series of strokes, and he lost the taste for coffee.
I rounded the corner, and sure enough, there was Dad, stirring his spoonful of sugar round and round in the Tasters Choice Instant brew.
“Dad what are you doing? I thought you didn’t like the taste of coffee anymore?” I stuttered.
He took a long pause, and then put down the spoon, lifted the bone china cup and took a quick sip, before he answered,
“No, your mother didn’t want me drinking it, she didn’t think it was good for me,”
For five years after his stroke, my father faithfully made my mother her coffee, twice a day, in her cup of choice, stirring adding two sugars and the correct amount of half and half, and never made himself one. Not once.
That’s how I know it for sure, cause Dad didn’t have coffee for five years…Mom was always right.
Dad said so.