Thursday, February 28, 2013
A Yellow Touch of Grace
My aunt Vina gave me a yellow teapot at my bridal shower.
I am embarrassed to say that back then I was so ignorant of the ways of tea and teapots that I didn’t fully appreciate this. In fact, I sputtered something silly like, “Oh, a watering pot!”
And Vina said, kindly, “No, Dorcas. A teapot.”
This is all in the first chapter of Tea and Trouble Brewing, so if it’s repetition for you, forgive me, and thank you for reading the book.
In the flippant stupidity of youth I sold the teapot at our garage sale before we moved to Canada two years after we got married. I still remember it sitting there on the table at Joe and Nancy Mast’s garage on Brandywine Court, and I was all worried that I was charging too much for it.
Now, granted, it behooved us to downsize, since we were moving out of the country and way up North in a little pickup truck, and we had a baby, and all our leftovers would be stored at Paul’s parents’ house.
But still. I could have gotten rid of a few of the wedding decorations and kept the teapot.
As I explained in Tea & Trouble, as the years passed I came to love tea and to learn its mysterious ways. I began to collect tea things—china teacups, tea tins, varieties of tea, little spoons, and lovely quirky teapots.
Then I painted my kitchen yellow.
And I cannot tell you how much I would have liked to go back into the past and keep that yellow teapot.
But the past is what it is, and our regrets are what they are, and life is still good.
Of course I always knew that in the grand scheme of things, regrets about a teapot ranked a long way behind regrets about words I should have said and friends I neglected and fears I listened to. But sometimes, you know, a little, tangible thing becomes symbolic for bigger things of the spirit.
Last week I helped at school one morning and then I drove over to the Country Bakery on Peoria Road, where Loretta Birky sells her no-adjective-is-adequate baked goods. She also sells books and crafts, and she needed a supply of my books.
So I stopped by to replenish her stash. We arranged the books on the little shelf and then she said, “Oh, there’s a box here for you. A lady stopped by and wondered if I ever see you. She’d rather not mail it because it’s glass.”
She handed me the box. I thought, “Glass?” and of course I was curious but not enough to open it then and there.
I took it home and cut it open.
You know how sometimes something happens that is just a complete bolt-from-heaven surprise, and just pure 100% joy and delight?
Well, this is what I pulled from that box:
Yes, a lovely yellow teapot. Not identical to the one I sold, but definitely the same sort, the same size, the same flavor, the same vintage, just a slightly deeper shade of yellow, trimmed in the same gold.
It felt like redemption. It felt like grace. It felt like losses restored and like magically going back in time and having a chance to undo the choices we regret.
It made me very happy.
Also in the box, since I evidently wasn’t quite blessed enough, was a box of Kenyan tea.
And a letter.
Among other things, it said, “. . . you wrote an essay about tea and a yellow tea pot you had received. . . You said it was unusual but you had given it away years ago? Now wishing you had kept it.
The next day or so after reading your story I went to an estate sale. There was a sweet, very old lady there sitting and watching her belongings go away. I felt sad looking at her. As I picked up the yellow tea pot with a $2.00 price tag she said, ‘Oh, won’t you buy that? I’ve had it a very long time and it needs a good home.’ Then I thought of you and said to her, ‘I’ll find a very special place for this!’”
Sometimes I smile at my cheerful new teapot and think that this is what Heaven will be like—full of surprises and happy endings for all our stories.