“Mom! You agreed to keep this cup in the cabinet, so it won’t get broken,” Chelsea said.
“Yes, I did,” I said. Nonetheless, in a small act of defiance, I put Chelsea’s cup on the counter next to another Christmas mug. It was early December and because I’m decorating (and shopping) challenged, I thought a few visible holiday items might remind me to acknowledge the season, and perhaps even prepare for it.
Chelsea’s cup has a rather ordinary Christmas snow scene of evergreens and two snowmen. It’s unremarkable except for one thing: Chelsea’s cherished friend Ina gave her the cup. Chelsea and Ina met when they attended a prospective member’s group at our church. Although forty years separated their ages, Chelsea and Ina became fast friends in only a few weeks. In time, they developed a close, loving relationship.
However, there wasn’t enough time. About eighteen months after Chelsea and Ina met, Ina lost her ten-year battle with ovarian cancer. Ina was loved by so many that the outpouring of grief was palpable. Chelsea and hundreds of others, myself included, were devastated that Ina would no longer celebrate life with them.
And how Ina celebrated life! Her motto was: “Don’t let anything steal your joy.” She lived, breathed, and laughed that motto. Ina was a beacon of joy to everyone. She also was hilarious. Ina’s memorial service featured dozens of photos of her picking her nose, wearing wigs and costumes, and being even more zany than Lucille Ball.
Because the two of them were so close, I know Chelsea has other gifts from Ina tucked away and she will keep and cherish them as she does the mug. Most gifts are inanimate objects, yet some almost become animated in our feelings toward them. Such treasured gifts represent so much more than the item’s shape, weight, design, and color. People visiting my home likely think the porcelain lemons on my bookcase are ugly but are too polite to point out what I already know: They are ugly. However, each person’s perception of my lemons changed after I told them the lemon story. A woman to whom I showed compassion when she was near an emotional breakdown gave me the lemons to express her appreciation. I look beyond the chunky porcelain arrangement of lemons and see her gratitude—as do others when they know the origin of my lemons.
Chelsea sees beyond the evergreen snow scene on the Christmas cup. She sees a beloved friend. She feels blessed by the friendship, for the too-short time in her life that Ina touched and shared.
I, too, have many such objects—the ones I hide away because I don’t want them broken or scratched or marred or torn. But the act of safekeeping often means I’m deprived of and forget each item’s intrinsic love. I’m reminded only when I pack or clean or declutter. I’ll spy something, that love springs to life, and I once again feel joy. Sometimes I feel sadness and loss. But the joy comes first. In many ways, I steal my own joy because I hide it away in a box or a bag or a drawer.
So, yes, I left the Chelsea/Ina Christmas cup on the counter. During this season, we won’t hide that cup’s love. Chelsea can drink coffee or cocoa or tea in her cup and feel more than the simple sweet liquid warmth, she can feel her joy—feel Ina’s joy.