Grandma brought the cup to the first tea party. Before she came, Janey put four pink plastic plates and teacups on her play table. Mommy gave her four sugar cookies for the pink platter in the middle of the table. She filled the teapot with water and carried it from the bathroom sink with both hands to put next to the cookies. Then she brushed Raggedy Ann’s hair and straightened Teddy’s arms before sitting them in their chairs opposite each other at the table.
Grandma had to sit on the floor because she was too big for her chair, but first she took the cup out of its nest of tissue paper in the flowered box she carried. When she put it on the table, Janey wanted to touch it, but she wasn’t allowed to handle glass things because she might break them. It was white like her best Sunday dress and had little pink roses on the side and on the saucer. Janey’s plastic tea set didn’t have saucers.
“This is yours, my Janey, but you can’t have it until you’re big enough to take care of it.” Grandma leaned over and kissed the top of her head, like she always did. “I painted the roses for you, my little gift from God.”
Janey didn’t spill when she poured water into the plastic cups. She smiled at Grandma while they nibbled their cookies. Janey ate Teddy’s cookie because he wasn’t hungry, but Grandma said Raggedy Ann might want hers later. Then Grandma came over and knelt by Janey.
“Would you like to drink out of your new tea cup?”
She poured the rest of the water into the beautiful cup and curled Janey’s little fingers around the painted roses, covering them with her long ones, and helped her lift it to her mouth.
“Ladies always sip our tea. We never guzzle when we drink.”
After that, Grandma always brought the cup to their tea parties.
There was a real china tea set under the Christmas tree when Janey was eight. It wasn’t much bigger than the old plastic one, but there were bright red butterflies on the thick china cups and teapot. Before Grandma came, Janey filled the teapot with Kool-Aid and arranged the tea set on the dining room table next to a plate of graham crackers. She picked dandelion flowers and put them in one of the cups.
Grandma took Janey’s special cup out of the box and kissed the top of her head like she always did. “Thank you for the flowers my little gift from God.”
Janey didn’t need help to sip from the cup anymore but she held it with two hands and took little sips of Kool-Aid.
“Ladies are always gentle,” Grandma said.
When Janey was twelve, Mommy let her use the good china with silver bands around the edges of the creamy white cups and plates. She helped Janey carry it into the living room on a silver tray. They filled the teapot with hot water and put a teabag on each saucer. Janey arranged mint leaves from the garden around the Fig Newtons on the cookie platter. Grandma kissed the top of her head and said, “It looks so lovely, my Janey. You are truly a gift from God.”
Janey was afraid to drink hot tea from her special cup, but she touched the painted roses with the tip of her finger. “Ladies love beauty,” Grandma said.
Mommy gave Janey the flowered box with her special tea cup when she was seventeen. Janey put it in a basket with a bud vase and a pink rose and carried it to the car. Before she unpacked them in the hospital room she went to the bed and kissed Grandma on the top of the head. “I love you Grandma. I’ve brought our tea.”
Grandma’s eyes were dull, but the corners of her mouth lifted a little. Janey put the rose on the table and swung it over the bed so Grandma could see it. Then she lifted her special cup out of its tissue paper nest and splashed a few drops of water into it.
“Mommy said you wanted me to have this now because I’m old enough to be careful with it.” She picked up one of Grandma’s hands and curled the frail fingers around the cup. With her own firm fingers holding Grandma’s, she raised the cup to the thin lips. “You are my gift from God, Grandma.”
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