My Grandmother’s cup is in my downstairs bathroom, resting on its side in the tub. I use it now to wash the soap out of Ben and Chloe’s hair, gently so their eyes don’t burn. Sometimes Ben likes to float his lego men inside of it, pushing down against their buoyancy.
“This cup was Great-Grandma’s. Now it’s ours, because she died. She died and we buried her. You miss her, Mommy.”
It’s a nighttime ritual that he says these words, struggling to understand the vastness of death. He studies my face, looking for some clue that maybe tonight… just maybe tonight something might be different.
“Yes Ben, Great-Grandma died, and her body is buried. But I remember her, and I miss her, and I love her very much.”
“Dead is forever?” He questions.
I contemplate the cup. My hand fits perfectly around it, envelopes it, really… but it wasn’t always this way.
I remember perfectly how it felt to hold that cup as a little girl. It sat in its resting place in my Grandparent’s bathroom, nestled among the toothbrushes. It was the “rinsing” cup. I recall that bathroom as easily as my children’s faces… The pale blue of the tile surrounding the sink and bathtub. The scent of powder and fresh air through the window. The sliding glass door of the shower that never completely closed. The pink brocade towels hanging softly nearby. And that cup. I remember mornings with my Mom and Dad, Brother and Sister, clamoring for the bathroom, fumbling for toothbrushes and toothpaste, taking turns with the cup. My Grandma and Grandpa would already be downstairs, enjoying their coffee and eating breakfast at the table that she had meticulously set for two the night before. We would eat the second shift, Grandma fetching cereal and milk while Grandpa went out to the garage or down to the basement to putter.
And again, at night… the cup. Rinsing squeaky clean teeth and changing into warm pajamas, not a care in the world except possibly a later bedtime. Nestling under the covers in my Father’s first childhood bedroom, listening to the whiz and pop of the radiator and the sounds of the city of Harrison, NY down below. Falling into a deep sleep, the type of sleep you always take for granted as a child. What I would give to sleep that soundly now.
Years later, after Grandpa was gone, Grandma sold the house to move upstate into a retirement home. We went down to pack the house and move her memories. She offered me china, and crystal, and furniture… but I had always known what I would take with me. A light switchplate that said “Outen the Light” that worked the old porch light. The old music box that hung on the wall over the toaster in the kitchen… I played it during breakfast. And my cup… the rinsing cup, so that I would always remember the simplicity and love contained within that old house.
I focus on Ben’s eyes, which are on the cup that he now holds. I choose my words carefully.
“Yes, Benny… it’s forever… but so is love.”