The teacups' siren's song has lured me countless time into thrift shops, yard sales and antique malls. I heard it first when I was a small child. The dainty porcelain maidens rested neatly behind glass cupboard doors in our formal dining room. My mother, a Polish immigrant, had a collection of about ten mid-century sets which she allowed me to touch and hold but once a year. She would pull them out from the cabinet for their annual washing (a ritual she swore kept the porcelain from becoming too dry and brittle) and gently soak them in a lukewarm, sudsy bath. It was the 1960's and we lived a half a block from the city of Detroit where racial tensions had reached their peak. The Vietnam war raged on, a new breed of rebellious, long-haired teens were erupting and the sweet innocence of the 50's was fading fast. I didn't know my mom and the neighbor ladies she would share a coffee-clatch with would be the last of the stay-at-home moms. I didn't know that the world was about to change. I only knew those simple little teacups with their cheerful florets, meticulous details, and soft-as-butter colors made me very, very happy.
I think they made my mother happy as well. She had survived a Nazi war camp, had lost her family in WWII and was living in a foreign country. It would be safe to say the teacups were a bittersweet reminder of the formal, yet secure, years she spent living as a displaced person in a convent in Austria. She escaped the life as a forced laborer and became a war nurse, trained by the nuns in a Catholic hospital. By day she tended the wounded in a crowded hospital ward. At night she retreated to her 'home' amongst historical religious paintings, marble floors and pillars, gilt adornments and all the simple, yet elegant surroundings that the church and convent had to offer. Fine porcelain was the norm.
Today, as I gather a cheerful brigade of vintage cups and saucers I am transcended to the place in my mind where those happy, childlike thoughts dwell. I often think about what good use I could possibly have for these tiny bearers of good will and if, indeed, I will ever find a way to share the pleasure they bring to others in need of a moment of simple goodness.
This was probably my favorite set as a child. I love the detail, the colors and the promise of spring it represents. Now I use it like a super model, posing it with flowers and backgrounds that compliment its design.
Somehow, the dishtowel in the background of this photo was spared over the decades. When I found it in my mothers' old linens I immediately recalled it. I've always been fond of blues and purples together and the sweet fruit motifs remain imbedded in my mind as first perceptions of 'art'.
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