I inherited an old coffee set from my grandparents several years back. I always kept it in a closet, not being used. I never even washed them. Just stored them. I doubt it’s any sort of fancy, expensive coffee set. The value lies in the heritage. It’s made in Bavaria, Germany in what I suspect was the 1950s. It has light coloured flower decorations and “gold” around the edges. It is light of weight and it automatically makes you touch it very carefully. I say it’s my grandmothers because I am convinced she was the one cleaning it and taking care of it. Not my grandfather.
I recently moved in with my girlfriend, and obviously brought all my belongings. However, there’s almost no room for anything here so most of my books, items and memorabilia are packed away in boxes. I’ve touched upon this subject before.
I don’t know if it’s my daughter coming along that made me unpack my grandmothers coffee set or the deep desire to have something in this household that is mine. And so I brought it forward. My girlfriend wanted me to wash it before finding room for it – if there is room at all.
So I carefully unwrap the coffee cups and the plates from the newspaper wrapping and start to clean them. It dawns on me that these coffee cups have been held in my grandmothers hands so many times through the years. So many of my family members drinking from them. When looking at them, cleaning them – I was filled with a sense of deep nostalgia and a longing for my grandmother that died when I was barely into my teens. Longing for a time that is no more.
I remember times at my grandparents house, and especially extraordinary evenings when so many of my family on my mothers side were gathered together. Birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries. My grandparents had five daughters which made for relatively large gatherings of aunts, uncles and children of all ages.
I imagine my uncles and my father sitting in my grandparents living room only used for special occations drinking coffee from these cups and talking about society or politics. My grandfather pouring coffee into his cup, and slowly drinking the hot wonder liquid often not saying much. I pick up one cup and study it. I wonder how many people have touched it, been drinking from this very cup, and how many of them that are still alive. My grandfathers sibblings? Now all gone. My grandparents friends which I do not know the names of? How many? These cups have passed through the hands of so many people through so many decades.
I remember thetre was once a jubilee of some sor at my grandparents hosue. My mother and her siblings had composed a song to their parents. Most of them singing out of tune to my fathers rythm guitar. I remember buffets of cold cuts of food that evening. My older cousins laughing at me when I only went to pick up a piece of tomato from the lush table of food. I remember one of my uncles loud, but warm laugh between his soft southern accent – different from the rest of us. I remember looking up to one of my cousings about seven years older than me. I was very myuch influenced by his taste in music or interest in RC model cars. He was tall, cool and knew everything.
By simply touching the coffee cups I could almost hear my uncles and aunts talking, see my grandfather drinking his coffee and see myself as a child running around being asked silly auntie-type questions about school.
After everyone had gone home that evening, I am sure my grandmother washed the dishes by hand. She had no dishwasher. It is a poignant feeling to know that she’s been touching and cleaning this coffee set through so many decades.
Now I was doing the same thing.
These days are long gone now. There are no more gatherings at my grandparents house. While most of the people involved are still alive, some are not and others are now at the very end of their lives. Time has moved on.