Obsessing About Cups and Saucers

In a current family grapevine discussion I began wondering about the obsession an aging relative seems to have about her fine bone china gold rimmed cups and saucers. Our own mother was also rather obsessive about who would take care of her considerable stock of them. She grew up in a time when afternoon tea was served daily in Australian homes with home baked goodies and some degree of ritual. On week days this was around the kitchen table, saturday afternoon possibly outside in the garden, in each case using kitchen cups and saucers and accessories. On sundays it was served with ceremony in the lounge room – generally with close rellies in attendance, mulling over the week just passed and what they knew or presumed of the week to come. The household stock of delicate porcelain china cups, saucers, silver teaspoons and cake forks, matching milk jug and sugar bowl and other accessories, including pretty cake plates, had regular and frequent workouts. Many years back, knowing she was approaching the end of her life, she had a fixation about someone taking the tea cups and saucers. Someone did take a few, I didn’t, but I did take a very old coffee set for my daughter who’s marrying soon, and I’m about to hand it on to her.

Right now an elderly aunt is in some state about her cups and saucers. A couple of years ago, she moved into an assisted living hostel, and although some cups and saucers went with her (I am sure they have never been used to serve tea in her room) – it was partly to ease her from independent living, where she did indeed serve tea, regularly, with precisely followed decades-old rituals. Today’s discussion by email on the family grapevine set me thinking – some time in the future will we too get obsessive and fret for loving homes for our coffee mugs? whenever? Heck, DH and I have quite a few in the cupboard I rather dislike. There are heaps of better designed, more interesting ones around; but, well you don’t just pitch stuff that still works, was how we grew up, and DH bought them, so they stay and are used daily. Unfortunately they are tough and their natural attrition is very slow! Back to the obsession with cups and saucers – where does this obsession come from – is it just a function of age? Or does it have to do with having lived all your adult life in the one place, as Mum and Aunt did? We have lived in many places, with and without our household gear, the houshold stuff has had spells in storage, and in effect is in storage again, in Australia; and we are living surrounded by other cups and saucers here in Uruguay. I don’t feel any approaching obsession yet …..

Oh, and this little antique coffee cup and saucer is Royal Worcester, Regency, from the late C19. Very fine bone china and so delicate to drink from. Until this morning I had sort of forgotten it was at the back of the cupboard….and it is so totally not my style, either. Any family takers? R? I have no idea from whose life this is a souvenir, and there was only one on sale.

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12 Responses to “Obsessing About Cups and Saucers”

  1. Nellie's Needles says:

    Interesting! My husband has a thing for coffee mugs. Consequently, our cupboard both here and at our Michigan cottage is overflowing. I have gleaned the collection at the cottage several times with the intent of making a backsplash across the sink wall. I can’t wait to smash them up. Some mug handles will be tiled into the wall and function to hold things.

  2. Nellie's Needles says:

    Interesting! My husband has a thing for coffee mugs. Consequently, our cupboard both here and at our Michigan cottage is overflowing. I have gleaned the collection at the cottage several times with the intent of making a backsplash across the sink wall. I can’t wait to smash them up. Some mug handles will be tiled into the wall and function to hold things.

  3. Alison Schwabe says:

    Sounds a good idea. I envisage the handles being horizontally set into the tileing – a band of mosaic peices from old mugs?…it isn’t possible in either kitche of ours I’m afraid.

  4. The Idaho Beauty says:

    I’m guessing it’s not so much the tea cups themselves but the memories they represent. Where a particular cup was purchased or who gave it as a gift. The people who shared use of them. Pleasant conversations over tea.

    In my own family, my mother had a small collection which I inherited. She and I had a tradition of getting them out and enjoying a cup of tea on Easter morning between the Sunrise service and the regular church service. I find I still do that, even though mom is long gone and I have no one to share this ritual with. We got them out at other times too. It was just our special treat to ourselves.

    One of the last things Mom and I did before she died was have tea in our special cups. I’m so thankful we had that chance.

    Before I inherited her collection, I started my own, pushstarted by an aunt who gave me a cream & sugar with a violet pattern. That became my passion for awhile, tracking down teacups with those violets.

    Now I’ve mostly lost interest in adding any more to my collection, but I could not think of selling them. Those memories are all too present in the things. I too, would hope some family member would be intrigued by the stories behind them, the family history, and want to preserve them both.

    Yes, I’m a bit of a romantic AND a packrat!

  5. Shirley Goodwin says:

    I started collecting china teapots and also some lovely bone china cups and saucers for the same reason that I also collect embroidered tablecloths and teacloths – because they’re beautiful pieces of work, and not made any more.

  6. Alison Schwabe says:

    So true Shirley – and in this vein let me refer you to my posts of June 30th 2005, and october 10th 2007.

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