When my parents came for Christmas, they brought with them a very special gift. It wasn’t a Christmas gift, mind you, but a we-want-you-to-have-this-now-so-we-can-see-you-enjoy-it kind of gift, mixed with a dash of stop-whining-about-not-having-pretty-demitasse.
The gift in question, pictured in this post, is a set of four Wedgewood espresso mugs with matching saucers, which originally belonged to a woman our family always referred to as “Auntie Annette,” and from whom I got my middle name.
Annette, of course, isn’t technically a relative at all, but an ‘affectionate’ auntie, one of my grandmother’s best friends from during my grandfather’s active-duty military days. My memories of her are dim, though I last saw her when I was nineteen or twenty, at my actual aunt’s house in Connecticut. I remember her as having perfectly coiffed, gray hair that, despite the faded color, was incredibly healthy. And I remember that she was honest, but honest from a place of kindness. And I remember that she always smelled really good.
Mostly, though, I remember her dogs. Or at least one of them. She always had a toy poodle, often a “pocket toy,” generally black, often given the same name – Nanette.
How can you not love a woman who sipped espresso from Wedgewood cups and owned dogs?
These mugs aren’t my only connection to this woman who was much more involved in my mother’s life (and the lives of her sisters) than in mine. Upstairs in the Word Lounge, I have a copy of a book I’ve had since I was six: A Very Young Dancer, about a young girl named Stephanie who is chosen (hand-picked by George Balanchine, actually) to play Marie in the New York City Ballet production of The Nutcracker. (Stephanie’s story (click here) is not all sunshine and flowers – if you loved the book as much as I did – and still do – you might want to skip the link.)
And there are a couple of scarves and a hat in boxes that came to me through my grandmother.
But the mugs…the mugs are the thing I’m really excited and touched to have, partly because my mother brought them to me, after they traveled with her to Mexico over a decade ago, and has used them, and partly because they have a sense of family history that a book about people I don’t actually know can never have.
As I write this, my espresso machine is gurgling, sending a perfect shot into one of these cups. The sun has just broken through the clouds after three days of grey skies and two days of nonstop rain (which we needed, but still…) and there’s a cardinal singing a happy morning tune in the tree outside my kitchen.
Sometimes, all it takes for a perfect moment is a shot of espresso in a pretty cup.