Her red enamel teapot. If put on the spot and asked to decide what single thing I loved my Mother most for, I would have to say it was this.
Mother carried the art of compromise with a sapphire sparkle in her eye. She conceded that to survive marriage and my Father’s Mother, a teapot was essential. Afternoons and cake were mandatory. I knew she would rather languish through this time of day with a delicate crystal tulip of Cinzano Bianco, slice of lime, with a sprig of mint if feeling really decadent, trumpeting James Joyce at twenty decibels to an enthralled purple exotic fighting fish in pride of place beside her black, soft lounge.
Grandmother was never invited into the ‘reading room’. My Mother was an advanced conservationist in the 40s, very against pollution.
Rebel red enamel teapot, not china. Flamboyant red glazed sumptuous strawberry tart on a virginal white plate. My Mother never deviated. She received Grandmother in the ‘front room’ twice a week. Mother always matched a tiny detail on her person to the sensuousness of her servings. Red drop earrings barely hidden and teasing within her russet red hair. A red garter that only I or Daddy actually saw. But I knew it was there, slightly bumpy on her thigh, under the smooth lines of her dress.
We knew she was really really cross with Grandmother’s ‘tafering’ as she softly called it to Daddy, when she wore the large red rose at her throat and ‘lawdy be’ matched it with lurid red lipstick. Grandmother usually missed a few visits after Mother wore the rose. Daddy was very quite too.
I still live with my Mother; well technically my Mother lives with me and my ‘tribe’ of children and love. She has dementia. I have a theory about brain deterioration. I know it is caused by excessive acquiescing. Women of my Mother’s era were the gold medallists in subjugation. It clogs up the brain. Words unsaid. Feelings avoided. Emotions denied. All sewage backflow.
Now Mother is released from all that, but she is quite aggressive. The red enamel teapot is now my treasure. Sometimes I need to serve tea in it with a red tart on a white plate. My Mother ‘sees’ me on those occasions. Her sapphire eyes snap into mine and she is momentarily shocked at what she has become. Her knowing and gentle laugh will be brief but we treasure those seconds over the tea from the red enamel teapot.
Inspired by Tea & Tart a wonderful picture by Naomi Mawson