CHIPPED AND MIXED MATCHED

It was a cold winter’s night. The fierce wind blew through the bare branches of the Scarlet Oak trees as the last car pulled into the driveway of the house at 428 Adelaide Drive.

The doorbell finished its ringing as the last two guests walked through the black door, took off their boots in the foyer, then joking about the cold, waited while their host hung their thick bulky coats in the hall closet.

Walking past the dining room, the couple glanced into the place where they would share a meal with good friends as they made their way to the living room filled with antiques, high back Queen Ann chairs, and shelves of thick and thin books. They sipped hot coffee while  waiting to hear the words, ” Dinner is served.”

Soon their host beckoned them into the dining room.  As the guests found their places, four looked at the table set with beautiful china plates, polished silverware, crystal glasses filled with water, and English teacups.

One guest thought it odd that the teacups did not match.  The table looked exquisite making the cups and saucers stand out like a sore thumb. Soon the guests, enjoying a seven-course meal, waited while the host poured coffee into each chipped mixed match cup sitting on top a saucer.  Next, the host cut each guest a slice of creamy cheesecake topped with homemade chocolate raspberry sauce drizzling down the sides creating little puddles on the odd-looking saucer, topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

There was laughter, and conversation, on the new cars they would buy, the fancy vacations they would take, the expensive new restaurant owned by a famous star, and the new bigger and better house being built.

Guest two with the long blond hair and cherry red nail polish complimented the host on the delicious meal and the beauty of the room. She asked if the host shared her recipes, then without missing a beat, guest two asked what the other’s were secretly wondering, she inquired about the teacups and saucers.

The fourth guest smiled as they all waited for an answer, she thought to herself, if these were mine, they would be in the trash.

John’s loving eyes glanced at Millie, his loving wife of fifty-two years. He was silent as he looked around the table at each guest, then reached out and picked up his cracked teacup. John breathed in a deep breath, then started a story that he had shared many times at this very table.

John told the story how his father who lived through the depression, cherished this particular cup and saucer. He continued sharing how his hard-working father had lost just about everything, including most of his possessions.  He went on to tell his guests that his father was a proud man, a hard-working, humble man, who found work picking apples, then cleaned stalls at a local farm just to earn a dollar or two, sometimes, not even that.

At the end of each long and tiring day, his father would sit around the dark brown oval table, ate a meager meal and often would drink warm water saving the weak coffee for his wife. The teacup represented the hardships his father endured.

He held up his cup and said to his guests,

” Each time I take a sip, loving memories run races through my mind of a father who never lost hope. A father who was grateful for the little things in his life.”

John got up from his Captain’s chair and walked a few steps. As he stood by his next guest, he picked up the cup, hesitated once more, then told the story about his loving mother who planted rows and rows of corn, beans, potatoes, and just about anything that would grow.

How she washed their clothes in a nearby stream when their old winger wash broke down, and there was no money for another.

 He held up the teacup and said,

“This chipped cup represents the hours my mother spent pulling weeds, canning vegetables, scrubbing clothes on a washboard in a stream until her hands bled. This teacup is filled with the love of a woman who believed in helping others. A mother who put her needs on the back burner.

He moved to the next guest, picked up the pink and yellow-flowered cup with the glued handle. He asked, the man and woman sitting across from where he was standing, to hold up their badly chipped cups with one missing a handle. Tears started to well up in his eyes as he hesitated, then said softly, these three teacups were used by those who had lost more than you could ever imagine.  My mother would invite them into our home and shared what we had as little as it was.

The tears rolled down his cheeks, as he continued sharing, what he remembered.   John told his guests about the neighbor living in a shed, hungry, and cold until his mother and father took him into their home.

  Then about the young mother of two small children whose husband had taken his own life out of fear of not being able to take care of his family.

The tears now resembling a flowing river stopped him for a moment, then he continued, “The young man very close to my age felt like a failure. He felt alone, lost, and ashamed.”

My father and mother did what they could to help the man, but it was too late.  After the funeral, they embraced his wife and children wholeheartedly and loved them as if they were part of the family. Mother knew the importance of being loved and accepted.  It didn’t matter what the circumstances were, she knew that love could move mountains.

  He pointed to the white cup with purple flowers and a light crack running down the side near the curved handle, then closed his eyes, and said,

    ” This cup was used by a friend of my father’s, who was the Pastor of our church. He would come by and talk with Father about his rapidly fading faith. My father would whisper to the middle-aged Pastor, and reminded him that no matter how bad things looked, God always had a plan. I remember Father looking up to heaven, praying for strength for a Pastor who helped many.”

John walked over to Molly, kissed her softly on her rosy cheek, then asked her to pick up the light pink teacup sitting in front of her.

The host wiped his tears, then with a steady voice said,

 ” This teacup sat alone on the shelf, empty, always clean, waiting for someone, anyone who needed to know that they were not alone.”

 As John walked back to where he started, he heard sniffles, as John turned, he saw tears streaming down the faces of his four guests.

John waited a few moments, cleared his throat, smiled, and then started again.

 ” Even though everyone at this table has everything they could possibly need in life, the teacups are a reminder of how blessed we are and how quickly things can change. They paint a picture of being humble and thankful when we have little and when we have much. The cracks and broken handles reflect the hope in our hearts and the strength that comes from above. The teacup that stands alone is like a welcoming heart reaching out to those who need a friend.  Above all, each imperfect teacup and saucer represents love, unconditional love, and acceptance. “

As John retrieved his guest’s coats and scarfs, he noticed a subtle softness in the four who bragged of everything money could buy. He hoped they would make choices to make a difference in the lives of others.

 Then with the front door open, the four guests walked down the sidewalk through the white snow, hurrying to the shelter of their cars. John and Molly listened as they started their cars, then returned waves as the drivers backed up and drove away.

As the door closed, and the two stood under the chandelier hanging high up in the foyer’s ceiling, they smiled, then walked back to the dining room. John and Molly gently picked up the chipped teacups with the mixed matched saucers and thanked God for sending four hearts who needed to hear a story.   A story of six chipped cups and mixed match plates that made a difference in the hearts of those who held them lovingly in their hands.

Dear Readers,

This is not the story I intended to write. In fact, my original idea was a story about talking teacups. However, after some thought and prayer, my storyline developed into John’s story. I hope you will enjoy this special story as much as I loved writing it.