Children love simply, completely, and unconditionally. If you’re an honored recipient of their affection, then guard it as a sacred trust. My niece and nephews love me madly and teach me daily that there is nothing that I can do about it. As the picture indicates, they outnumber me and the majority wins.
It is my greatest privilege to be their aunt. Yet, it is also humbling as well as a colossal responsibility. They invest their hopes for the future based upon the history they watch me and the rest of our family create.
“When I grow up, I want to be just like you.”
The day my beloved niece fixed her intelligent brown eyes upon me and uttered those words, I almost choked on the tea we shared. Studying my cup of tea, I sensed the beginning of tears pricking my eyes while something inside me shattered. Speaking from her love, the girl had no idea for what she was asking. On the other hand, I am fully cognizant of my shortcomings. Nevertheless, I quickly recovered and mentally scanned for a worthy response to such a sincere and solemn declaration.
The moment was more delicate than bone china tea cups. Who wants to disappoint a child?
Technically, I should have been flattered rather than shattered. Everything inside me felt pulverized because adults instinctively do not want the children they love to experience any of the difficulties they faced. Life is challenging enough without trying to mimic another person’s biography. As a result, I strongly encourage all the children I meet to be the unique, dynamic individuals each were created to be.
So I did that day. Asking my niece if she understood, she nodded but it was clear that she firmly held her position. It was like telling kids they will visit Chuck E. Cheese’s: There is nothing else left to say.
Yes, we are close relatives.
Tea cups, like this one from Darlene Meyers-Perry’s collection, are often admired. The cup’s beauty disguises the price previously paid to achieve it and how much is required to maintain it.
Clay — unformed, wet and messy — is how every aspiring tea cup begins. The end result depends upon whether the clay can endure the process.
The tea cup should let the clay know it must be tenacious enough to persevere through:
- Spinning on a potter’s wheel
- Being pushed down repeatedly
- Springing back up in another form
- Baking at intensely high temperatures
- Cooling intervals
- Etching without prior design approval
- Glazing to erase past imperfections
Additionally, this process is only preparation for the real test: Is the cup able to hold hot contents without breaking? It is a challenge that each cup quietly serves without seeking accolades. It’s what it is here to do.
The Newark Museum suggests that we study our teacups. I study tea cups for what they are unable to tell me about their process. May the young people I love study me and learn something to help them on theirs own journey to greatness. Needless to say, they know where to find an unapologetic tea aficionado willing to listen as we share progress reports over tea.
Lifting a tea toast to love: past, present and future. Cups up!