Living a beautiful life

When I was a child, my mom took a liking to teapots and teacups. One teacup in particular was special; it was what started her collection and it was the cup I recognized most out of all her tea things: a cup and saucer with delicate Japanese maple leaves. She often told us she’d gotten it from our great grandmother, but it wasn’t until much later that she shared the sweet little story behind it. About how she’d come across a book at the library that she found so inspiring, about how the book encouraged making little moments special with things like a special cup for tea.

But when you’re young and starting a family, it’s hard to find time–or money–for frivolities, even if they’re things that might bring you joy in the moment. She told us how she’d shared her thoughts about the book with her grandmother, and how shortly after, Grandma gave her this teacup so she could pursue one of those lovely little moments in life. That was the sort of person our grandmother was. She listened and cared a great deal about the small things that could make one happy. She lived a relatively modest life, herself, but she always had special treats to brighten one’s day. Sometimes it was a lemon drop from somewhere inside her purse, and sometimes it was a teacup to use every day.

Now that me and my sisters are all grown, Mom decided to pass that old blessing on to us, and this fall she gave each of us a matching maple leaf teacup. One of them was the one Grandma gave her, because she wasn’t able to find enough matching pairs without it. I don’t think we know who got Grandma’s cup, but it doesn’t matter; they’re all the same, really, as if Mom choosing to pass it on split the one gift into four. And alongside the simple yet lovely teacup, she included a silver sugar spoon and the book she first read that gave her the idea: Living a Beautiful Life by Alexandra Stoddard.

The book itself is something my sisters and I are working through together, reading a bit at a time like a book club might. We talk a bit about it as we read, but on Discord instead of in person, because times change and I’m now far off. It’s delightful, though, and we added Mom to the group so she could read and chat along with us.

It’s been a delight, with lots of little things to consider in a day-to-day life. Some parts of the book (which was first published in 1986) have become quite dated, but in a way, that makes it all the more charming. We’ve gotten to talk about ideas for how to update advice regarding telephone usage, laugh about the idea of keeping a Rolodex, and marvel at how things like Filofax planners still haven’t gone out of style.

And the book had one other delightful surprise for us, when we opened the cover to see the striped grosgrain ribbon (something which the author mentions using for bookmarks) tucked inside.

The ribbon, too, was a small gift from Alexandra, a tangible something connected to the charming lessons inside, and I’ve used it as a bookmark throughout my reading.

We aren’t done reading yet, but probably will be before my birthday next year.

In the meantime, I think I’ll have some tea.

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