Monday, September 27, 2010

Tales of the Traveling Teapot

I found the teapot above shoved in the bottom drawer of the dresser in my spare bedroom. My brother stayed with me last week when he passed through this area while riding in Cycle Oregon. Before we drove him back to the Cycle Oregon encampment in Pendleton, I had scanned the back bedroom to make sure he wasn’t leaving me any surprises. I didn’t mount a full-scale search…I underestimated his deviousness.

The teapot belonged to my mother. After her death my brothers and I cleaned out her house. I had heard horror stories from friends about families that were torn apart as siblings fought over dividing their inheritances. My brothers and I were fortunate that my mother had a will and we had a clear understanding of how her “estate” was to be divided. Together we worked to clean out her house. Most of the contents of her home were donated to a local charity. Any items that any of us wanted to keep were placed in a pile and we took turns choosing what we wanted. There wasn’t any bickering or fighting…we mostly chose things that had emotional significance to us not intrinsic value. One by one we chose the things that were most important to us. The copper pot that sat on the hearth of my childhood home now sits in front of my fireplace and a small painting that my mother bought at an art fair hangs on the wall next to the one I bought on the same day.

The grandchildren were given the opportunity to choose a keepsake. My daughter saved items from the china hutch that she had given her grandmother. When I last visited her house I saw that the paper flowers she had made when she visited her grandmother when she was 8 or 9 are now enthroned in her own china hutch. My son salvaged his grandmother’s college papers from the recycle pile and a tie-dyed T-shirt from one of her college events. The writings, that include a story about my brothers and me, now live in a suitcase under the bed in the spare bedroom.  I don’t know that we will ever do anything with them, but I’m glad he saved them.  He still wears the T-shirt. I don’t know what the other grandchildren chose, but the process gave them some closure.

Somehow the teapot got in my pile of stuff. My brother agreed to store a few items for me because I couldn’t carry everything in my suitcase when I flew home. We packed up several boxes to ship to my home in Oregon. I didn’t pack the teapot. I don’t remember it from my childhood. The running joke when we ran across something that we didn't want was to give it to the other sibling and say "Mom wanted you to have this."   I told my brother that Mom definitely wanted him to have the teapot.

We scattered my mother’s ashes at the pier in Oceanside. We didn’t have a memorial service, but we did all go to her favorite restaurant. The grandchildren wore their grandmother’s huge sunglasses and everyone wore an assortment of buttons from her collection of lost causes.

I flew home and several weeks later the boxes arrived. I opened a box that I didn’t remember packing and found the teapot, several pairs of those huge sun glasses, a “Merry Christmas” button and numerous other items that I had tried to abandon at my brother’s house. My nephew had pounded in the side of the teapot to make it fit in the box.

Several months later I visited my brother and took the teapot with me. He found it before I left and hid it back in my luggage. Foiled again! It came home with me. The teapot has now made four trips back and forth from Oregon to California. We’re going there for Christmas this year and I’ll take it with me…and I won’t leave my luggage unattended.

My husband suggested that we don’t take it…and just drive my brother nuts thinking that he can’t find it. He’ll probably read this blog. I haven’t decided on my game plan yet. I’ve got a couple of months to work out the perfect hiding place. 

As challenging as my relationship with my mother was, it is comforting that a silly tradition and good family memories have come out of her death. I'm sure she wanted Leigh to have the teapot.

1 comment:

Brighton Pensioner said...

My grandmother's old copper kettle is lying in the cupboard under the stairs - I think! That too is a little battered but that's from its frequent use sitting on a trivet at the side of the fire so that boiling water for tea was always readily available.

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