2009-12-08 - 11:35 a.m.
I've been beavering away on a student's final paper draft (looonnggg paainful story), and I thought I'd take a break to share a long involved story about a cup.
Yes, a cup.
At the end of last summer, when we still lived in our former house, we started to become friendly with our neighbors, Solva and Paul. We had shared friendly hellos in the street for years, and we even dropped a bottle of wine on their porch back before Susi was born. They finally invited us for beers last summer, which was quite pleasant.
A few weeks later, on the day that they leaving for a three-week holiday in Italy, they decided to harvest their huge plumb tree. You may remember my descriptions of K and I making buckets upon buckets of JAM. The jam came from their tree. While they were in Italy, we processed almost all of the plumbs and gave out several jars of plumb jam to all of the neighbors, saving a case of it for the tree owners themselves.
While we were out helping them to harvest the tree, Solva brought over a cup of chai tea for K to drink. Solva and Paul left rather quickly for the airport, so K and I brought the cup upstairs, washed it, put it in the cupboard for safe keeping, and promptly forgot about it.
And then we moved, and lost our cat, and got our cat back, and continued unpacking and organizing, and our lives are STILL not quite back to normal (although more so).
About a week and a half ago, K got an email from Solva, asking if we remembered her cup. This was apparently a very special cup - one of a set of six that she and her husband had picked up while traveling in China. She wanted it back.
K replied fairly promptly that we had found the cup in our cupboard and that it was safe and sound, and were they available to get together this December?
He got this reply from Solva:
Hi K. May I please have my cup back?- you can drop it off anytime - feel free to knock on the door- we are home most evenings. If we happen to be out, then please leave it under the big settee on the porch and send me an email letting me know that you have dropped it there and I will watch for it- thanks from Solva
Okay, so he didn't actually SAY that he would bring the cup back...but kinda thought that it was implicit in the "let's get together" comment. Apparently, it wasn't.
So after thinking that this response demonstrated a slightly intense attachment to the cup, K then replied very cheerfully and positively:
Sure! I'm sorry that we've kept it so long - we've been overwhelmed since the move, but things are finally coming back to normal. But don't worry, it's safe - we can try to drop it past this weekend when we are on the Drive.
Hope you and Paul are doing well. We really appreciated your short house-warming visit back in Sept and miss having you as neighbors.
We finally got down to the drive with the cup on Monday and K handed it to Paul, with three chocolates inside. Paul took the cup without much comment, and then within two hours, K had the following email waiting for him:
Hi K: I came home and was told by Paul that you returned the cup- While putting away the cup I noticed that the handle had a crack in it and was broken with a small part missing?... I guess it didnt survive the move after all...
Okay, first of all, NEITHER of us had noticed any cracks in the cup. We had not TOUCHED the cup since it sat in our cupboard (we have thousands of cups) Had it been chipped or cracked, we would not have even noticed...Perhaps it did happen during the move. But does anyone else sense the implicit blame here?
Secondly, does it seem odd to have such a strong attachment to a cup??
Thirdly, okay, even if you DO have such a strong attachment to a cup, would you then offer it to a neighbor who is STANDING ON A LADDER IN THE BACKYARD picking plumbs? I'm sorry, but that seems a bit like my offering up my Swedish crystal* and getting upset that it breaks.
Nevertheless, K sent out another, very apologetic reply, to effect of, Hi Solva, I'm terribly sorry that there was a problem with your cup. We normally return things quite promptly but we have really been overwhelmed with our move. I'm also sorry to learn that the cup had been damaged. I had no idea, and the cup clearly means a lot to you. I hope we can make it up to you. - K
To which he got this reply:
Thanks for the offer.
My friends, we have been placed on the scale of justice, and the cup clearly weighs more than we do.
I think that this is the first time in my life that a cup was worth more than friendship. More telling to me is that these are the neighbors of the Obsessive-Compulsive Painting Landlady. It makes me feel as though that there is a mentality of superficial interest in meaningless things that comes with owning rich, heritage houses. And I'm glad that I'm no longer a part of it.
Hopefully we can find better friends in neighbors at our new location.
*In truth, I frequently DO give out my Swedish crystal to house guests, although not when they are standing on ladders. The key distinction here is that I decided long ago that if they break during a celebration, then they have gone out in style. And I will at least have the memory of enjoying my things with friends.
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...they are just words, Suzi... - 2011-08-29