Photo Credit: “Summer Tea” by Valyezter
Valerie Wayne wadded the newspaper around the china plate and carefully placed it into the cardboard, packing box. At the sound of a robin out on the birdhouse, pecking at the feed there, she glanced up. Sunlight bounced off the frame of a delicate, Winterset china teacup with its bright blue flowers, shaped like butterflies, linked by their leaves and a deep pencil-red border. She let the tears that flowed, fall freely.
Oh, Mom. How I miss you. All the laughter. The songs. Our talks.
She curled her hand and winced at her nails pinching the inside. Bowing her head, her dark bangs hid her face and blocked the view of her mother’s favorite cup, hung there on its hook, waiting for a fresh cup of tea. She nodded to herself. I can do this. She brushed her hair back and picked up another newspaper clipping, the obituary catching her eye. My dad or my brother, Bill, must have mixed it up with the pages meant to buffer the breakables. She swallowed and smoothed its column. If mom were here, she’d have everything organized just so. But here, I am. Lost. Helpless. Fifteen, without a mother to hold me or laugh with me.
Hugging the box, she leaned into it. She heard someone out in the hall, going through the front door and wiped at the tears. It won’t do to hide, dear; I could almost hear her say. Reach out, you need each other now.
I don’t know how, Mom.
Not even the sound of footsteps coming into the kitchen could get her to her feet. Someone slid their arms around her. Warm, nice-smelling. Just like mom. She sobbed as her Aunt Judy rubbed her back. “Shhh, baby girl. It’ll be okay. We’ll get through this. We will.”
Valerie gestured to the tea cup. “I can’t,” she sobbed.
Aunt Judy smoothed her hair back and wiped at her tears. “Your mom would be very proud of you right now. You’re so strong. But,” she lifted Valerie’s head until they could look into each other’s eyes. “She wouldn’t want you to do this by yourself. Your mother would want you to go on. That doesn’t mean forgetting her. No one would ever ask that of you.”
“But this move, the new house, it’s too much right now,” Valerie said.
“I think,” Aunt Judy pulled her close, “that it’s exactly what’s needed right now. Part of growing up is leaving the past there to finger like an old photograph. Memories never disappear, Valerie, they just get stronger with time.”
Valerie sat up. “You know there used to be two of those cups.”
“Oh?” Aunt Judy said.
She nodded. “One for mom. One for me.” She smiled. “Momma used to say we were two of a kind. That our bond would never be broken like those tea cups. But,” my hands fisted. “I threw mine at the counter a few weeks before—before—” I stood with the help of Aunt Judy. “I will never forget the look on her face.”
“Valerie, come here.” She led me over to one of the packing boxes and lifted out a second cup to match the one on the hook.
The cup was identical to the first, except that it was carefully and lovingly put back together.
“She must have spent hours—“
“Nothing is ever really broken, that doesn’t in the right hands become a treasure of the heart.” Aunt Judy repacked the cup gently and reached for the other on its hook.
“No, let me,” Valerie said.
©2010, June 18, tlc.
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