Sixty, maybe seventy years ago my father gave a turquoise blown-glass dinnerware set to his mother, my Grandma Rose. She called it her “mowt-blown china.” At antique stores I’ve seen similar glassware, said to be from Mexico.
Grandma gave it to my brother Lew, who gave it to me. Every time I used those dishes, I felt a connection to Daddy and Grandma too.
More fragile than china, they came out mostly for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, or sci-fi dinner parties.
Thom and I were newlyweds when I gave him a mug bearing an excerpt from Rilke that we’d borrowed for our marriage vows.
“For one human being to love another is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.”
Thom had already learned that lesson the hard way. Before we met I’d had a fear of commitment. I was so afraid of getting stuck or worse, abandoned, that I rarely went on more than a couple dates with anyone. I carried my own walking papers in my back pocket and I wasn’t afraid to use them.
Then came Thom. Poor Thom. Dear Thom. Courageous Thom.
He could take it on the chin, and grin.
He was wise enough to perceive the pattern and understand what I was doing even before I did. He was gentle and patient. He taught me how to fight fairly and work things out instead of just dumping guys in general, and him in particular. He taught me that it was okay to ask for what I want, how to negotiate, and not to expect others to be able to read my mind. He taught me that I could be myself and still be loved. He taught me that there were men out there who can be counted on, and that I could count on him. Thom deserves combat pay for sticking it out long enough for me to realize I didn’t want to make him go away after all. And so I stopped trying. Best decision I ever made.
So what do these vessels have to do with Thom and me, or anything at all?
Almost thirty years ago a dear friend, who may or may not have been related, was visiting and washed the dishes.
Putting them away, she stacked the elegant glass cup inside the Love Mug. Try as we might, we could not pry them apart. We tugged and twisted, but were so afraid of breaking either piece that we gave up. I couldn’t bear to throw them out, so they lived here for the next twenty-five plus years.
It is both appropriate and a little poetic that the same person, without whom there would be no story, was also present for its unexpected conclusion.
A year or two ago, I rediscovered the inextricable pair in the back of the cupboard. I decided, once and for all, to mend it or end it. It was like asking a husband to choose between the life of the mother or the child, which is why I’d put it off for so long. I finally opted to save the heirloom glass, if possible, which was stuck inside the mug. I told that dear person, who shall remain unnamed, that I’d take a hammer to the mug, if necessary; if the glass were to break as well, so be it.
But I’ve learned a little grease applied judiciously can go a long way. We drizzled oil in between and pulled, hoping the glass would slide out. It did not.
We went back to simple lessons learned in high school science. Heat expands and cold contracts. While soaking the outside of the mug in boiling water, we filled the glass with ice water. Still the glass stuck tight. So it came down to the last resort. Holding the mug by the handle, I whacked it on the countertop, hoping it would shatter. Pop! Out came the glass, in perfect shape, and I had my morning coffee in the Love Mug.
There are several morals to this story.
First of all, no one can tease me any more for hanging on to the glass and the mug all those years. Pay attention to your instincts!
Secondly, you might actually learn something in science class that you can apply to real life (and don’t forget that bit about the grease.)
Thirdly, breaking up is hard to do, but sometimes you just reach a breaking point, where you need to mend it or end it.
Fourthly, once you try everything you can think of, try everything you can’t think of. Sometimes you have to try everything all at once. But if it’s something worth saving, it’s worth the effort.
Love is like that. Thank goodness.
All images and words c2014 Naomi Baltuck