Friday, July 13, 2012

Part 1: The Question of the Teacup

For years it had been just the sweet little teacup. Had I been more observant and perhaps less afraid of the musty and shadowy lower level that was the residence of my great grandfather, I may have first noticed the cup in the curved glass cabinet in his abode. But I was too anxious to venture below the steep of the stairs in my grandmother’s home to explore her father’s quarters. After ‘Pa’ died, my grandparents moved, and the cup had a new home in their more modern dining room cabinet. Here, it captured my young eyes. Always entranced by any object sporting my favorite color, with childlike wonder I would gaze at it in the thoroughly sleek 1960s china cabinet, admiring its various pearly blue hues. Even in my earliest memory I was captivated with the details of the painted church on the teeny cup. I use the word, church for that was the only term my young mind had for what I would eventually learn to be a cathedral, the Truro Cathedral to be exact. In those days, if I could have read the words, I would have understood. But, perhaps it best I was too young for deciphering those letters. It only added to the intrigue of the cup.
            After my grandmother died her only child, my mother, divided the possessions. Not surprisingly, my first choice was the item that continued to mesmerize me: the diminutive cup. Throughout my many moves, Maryland, Michigan, Virginia, Louisiana, and back to Maryland, I either wrapped the cup myself or implored the movers to be extremely careful with this fragile treasure from ‘the old country.’ 
But despite my inadvertence and pleadings, near tragedy struck. Even today, my breath quickens and my heart pounds when I consider how it was nearly lost to me. Determined to be done with the unloading and unwrapping, the careless movers failed to feel the cup in the mound of packaging. Stuffing the crumpled paper into the now-empty boxes, they disappeared into the night.
The next morning when arranging my family treasures, I was horrified and sickened to discover the cup’s absence. Nearly in hysterics, I screamed to my husband who assured me the cup would be returned. “How can he be so calm?” I panicked and furthermore, “How can he be so sure?”
But as it turns out, the cup was destined to be at home with me once again. Greg drove to the moving company and insisted that every piece of packing material be examined. And sure enough, among the mountains of wrapping, my treasure was rescued from its tenebrous grave.
With ceremony, I returned the cherished teacup to its home in my great grandmother’s cabinet.  The treasure seemed to settle in. It belonged here. It was then that the impact of the heirloom coursed through me. I was only its guardian, its caretaker for my generation. It would and should sit in this cabinet for hundreds of years when other small children might gaze at with longing eyes and parents would impart the tale of its near loss. I was quite pleased that I had not shirked my duties as the custodian of the cup.
But it was not done with me yet. The nexus of my growing family tree and the painting on the cup began to haunt me with the now apparent inconsistencies.
I was off on another genealogy puzzle: How did that cup come to be in our family when my ancestors had all left Cornwall before the building of the Truro Cathedral?  Cornish history and my family history had to be reconciled before the tale of the cup was complete.

Stay tuned for The Revelation


  1. What a wonderful little vignette, Kathy. Your teacup looks precious. And you are right: you are just one stop in a long chain through which this treasure will be passed along.

  2. That was a near miss, but Greg came to the rescue, thankfully. Looking forward to Part Two :-) Jo (PS I found you through the Sassy Genealogist's blog)