On a hook on the wall it hung. Small and unassuming, there was nothing which drew the eye to it. A plain clay cup.

It was not beautiful, or very important. The cup knew this, and it hated it. From where it hung on the wall, directly above the stove, it had a bird’s eye view of the kitchen. It looked at the other dishes with envy, often.

The mugs were bold in colour, they burst into your vision like a firework when taken out of the cupboard. You could not look away. Their vivid presence commanded your attention while they were in sight.

Some of the plates were painted with intricate designs. They were fragile and lovely, only brought out and used during special occasions. The rest of the year they sat like royalty, high up on a shelf. Above the rest, to oversee and to be admired. Valuable. Kept safe from harm.

The crystal caused the cup to feel the most envy. They were clear and serene. There were crystal dishes of all shapes and sizes, all cut like diamonds. They were used to hold the decadent things in life – sweets and preserves and wine. The plain clay cup especially loved to watch the sunlight catch the cut patterns in the crystal wine glasses. The sparkles mesmerized the cup. When filled with wine, there was a purplish hue to the glittering around them. When sitting empty on the table, it looked as though sunlight itself was filling the glasses. They became a kaleidoscope. Light reflected around each one in a circle.

The thing the plain cup noticed, and what bothered it most, was that all the other dishes – even the everyday dishes – were part of set. They matched each other. They belonged.

The clay cup had no set. It was only one.

The cooking dishes were difficult to deal with. Brash, shiny….boastful. They thought they were the best, the most useful. The pots and pans were proud that every meal made in the kitchen was dependant on their usefulness, and they made certain that all the other dishes were aware of this. They looked with scorn at the other dishes. Anything different from them was reason enough to belittle it.

They mocked the designs cut into the crystal. They made fun of how fragile the china dishes were. They even sneered at the everyday dishes. The everyday dishes scrambled to be accepted by the pots and pans, trying to prove that they were the same. They pleaded unconvincingly that they were just as important in each meal, that they had a similar usefulness. The everyday dishes joined in on the mockery of the others, as though they thought that having a kinship in being cruel would gain them acceptance from the cooking dishes. It worked, sometimes. Other times, the cooking dishes would turn on the everyday dishes – blasting for all to hear how boring they were, and how their role was not even close to being as important in the kitchen.

They were cruel to the plain clay cup too.

‘Why are you even HERE?’ the pots would blast with their hot, steamy breath, “you don’t BELONG here, you’re not as good as us. You’re too breakable. You don’t even fit in with anything else. And all you ever do is fill up and pour out, fill up and pour out. Anything could do that. You have no good USE”.

The clay cup heard this, daily. It wished it could change it’s shape, to belong to a set. Or change it’s function, to be truly useful. Or both.

Years went by. The activity in the kitchen changed as they passed. It was a sporadic place at first. Not much cooking went on. The cup had weeks where it would not get used at all, and then all at once would be used in a huge flurry of activity – measuring wine for fancy sauces to be served at dinners for large groups of friends.

Next, the humans who lived in the house brought home smaller humans. Noisy, messy ones. The plain cup loved those years. The kitchen was bright and active then. The plain clay cup was used every day. Measuring liquid for almost every meal made, measuring water to make broth when the small humans were unwell, and measuring milk into a bowl for making bread. The small humans were allowed to help occasionally. Their small hands filling up the clay cup, grasping it’s handle roughly and pouring it out. The small hands were clumsy, they would crash the cup against the bowl and bang it on the counter. It hurt, and the plain cup feared sometimes that it would break.

The kitchen changed again. The small humans grew up into big ones, and left. There were a few very quiet years. The clay cup was worried that it would go back to collecting dust on the wall, as it had in the beginning. But it still was used most days during those years. The humans who lived in the house had been cooking now for so long, that they remembered no other way. The plain clay cup was thankful.

The kitchen activity was not the only thing that had changed as the years passed. The plain clay cup had changed also. In the beginning it was light, the colour of sand. It’s glaze had a sheen to it. But over the years it had begun to look different.

On the outside, it had chips from being banged on the counter so many times. Crackled lines ran across the surface of the cup. They spiderwebbed through the glaze, like scars earned from of a thousand times of being handled. On the outside it looked the colour of caramel now, and the fine lines in the glaze made it appear as though it was made of marble.

The inside of the plain clay cup had changed too.

On the inside, the glaze had worn very thin. Years and years of filling up and pouring out. The glaze had worn thin enough, long enough ago, that any liquid poured into it had started seeping under it’s glaze. There had begun to be marks, stains on the inside of the cup. On the inside, the cup now looked as though it was not a cup at all, but instead was a slice from the trunk of a tree from layers upon layers of stains, creating rings.

The mugs in kitchen were still bold, and the china was still so lovely. The crystal still caused the plain clay cup to look in awe at it’s magnificence. And the cooking dishes were still shiny….and still difficult. The clay cup still heard, daily, about not fitting in and about it’s uselessness because all it ever did was fill up and pour out.

One day, the kitchen changed again. One of the now grown-up humans began bringing a small human of their own, for visits. When the small human was there, the kitchen became bright and active again. Different food was prepared. The clay cup once again was able to experience the pain-filled joy of having a small human involved in the cooking.

‘Let’s make bread, Grandma’. The words got spoken. Baking ensued. The clay cup was happy. Flour out, into the bowl, dry ingredients mixed. The small human spoke again while mixing in the bowl with a large wooden spoon: “May I pour in the milk, please?” The clay cup felt little hands grasp it shakily, with big hands overtop for support. Still, some milk spilled on the counter. “Wait one minute, I’ll go get a cloth to wipe that up. Then I’ll help you pour out the milk” said the human who lived in the house, and she turned her back.

Little hands grasped again, this time on their own. The clay cup was lifted for a second, until it’s weight was too much for slippery little fingers to support it. The cup fell, hit the corner of the counter with a cracking blow, and then fell to the floor with a crash. The cup felt the searing pain of impact as it broke into several pieces.

A gasp. “OH no!” Tears. “Grandma! I broke your cup! I broke your old cup! It’s garbage now”. His hands over his face, little body crumpled to the floor. Head bent. Ashamed. Sorry.
As if from far away in a dream, the plain clay cup could hear the goings on in the kitchen. The human who lived in the house came close. She embraced the small human, and wiped his tears. She chuckled.

“No, child. This cup may be broken, but it is not garbage. I would never get rid of this cup. It’s too precious.”

The clay cup felt it’s pieces being gathered up and lifted, up to the table. A soft cloth began to wipe across the surface of it’s pieces, cleaning it.

“This cup is much darker now than when I bought it years ago. I bought it before your mother was born.” said the human who lived in the house. “It used to be tan coloured and plain. But, you know…..when I very first saw this cup, I loved it. Even when it still looked plain, there was something about it. I just knew there was beauty in it that was aching to come out.”

The clay cup felt a brush gently painting glue down the jagged edges of where it was broken. “And I was right” she said, beginning to apply pressure as she held two pieces of the cup together “because look at it. See?” she said, “look at the outside. Every chip and mark and crackle in the surface from every moment of use over all these years have made it beautiful. It looks like a polished stone now.”

The small human had stopped crying now, and was helping. Little ears listening, and little hands holding the mended side of the clay cup, while the human who lived in the house brushed glue on the remaining exposed edges.

“And look at the inside of the cup” she said “look at the stains. Rings of stains, round and round they go. Each stain tells a story. Each one holds a memory. I baked bread here in this kitchen with your mother many times, with this very cup. This cup has been filled up and poured out so many times that it has been changed inside.”

The last piece on now, larger hands applying gentle pressure holding them all in place. The clay cup felt relieved. It felt whole again, the same as it did before, but…different too.

“Is it fixed now, back to the way it was?” asked the small human. “No” said the human who lived in the house “It will never be back to the way it was before it broke. Now it will have cracks from being broken. But it is mended. As the glue dries overnight, the glue will expand and become very strong.”

“And those cracks, which are the cup’s weakest points right now, will soon become it’s strongest points.” she said.

The clay cup felt it’s mended self lifted up again by the human who lived in the house. She examined it. The cup’s vision had cleared now that it was whole again. The kitchen had come into view. Sunlight was streaming through the window, the rays lit up the area where the table was. The sun was starting to set, it was a red glowing ball on the horizon. The light coming into the kitchen had a red tint to it also. The small human sat with his chin propped up against his hand, watching and listening, entranced.

“Even better” said the human who lived in the house “these cracks make this cup even more unique. Some might look at the cracks from being broken, and think they make it worthless. But I know better”. She smiled at the small human. “It’s uniqueness is what makes this cup so beautiful, and it also makes it precious. It just takes having eyes to see that.”

Slowly, she turned the plain cup in her hands. She was sitting at the table with her back to the window, her long silver hair pulled up into a bun. Some pieces of hair had escaped her hair tie over the course of the day. The clay cup could see the red light from the setting sun filtering through the wisps of hair which framed her face. Her face, slightly hidden by shadow, was filled with emotion. The clay cup watched as a tear escaped her eye and tracked it’s way slowly down her cheek.

“This cup will look different in our memories together now. It will be different than in the memories I share with your mother. But the most important thing remains the same – that we will use this cup together. We will watch as it continues to change and become even more beautiful over the years to come.”

“We will fill it up and pour out.” she continued “It’s about more than just pouring water, or milk though. When we use this cup, together we pour out memories and love. This cup is not only unique in how it appears, but it is special in what it does. It helps us to share our love. That’s what makes it so precious”

The human who lived in the house set the cup gently back down on the table. “Let’s leave this here to dry” she said “and let’s go finish the bread. I’ll let you be the one to put the cup back where it belongs, tomorrow.”

On a hook on the wall it hung, exactly where it belonged. Small and unassuming. Beautiful and unique. Loved. Ready to fill up and pour out, whenever it was next needed.   A precious clay cup.

(© 2016 Leila Skidmore ~ )

Leila Elizabeth

Leila Elizabeth

Always a lover of words, I began reading them at a young age, and began creating with them shortly thereafter.

A bend in the road led me to embrace my introversion, and to discover my identity as a highly sensitive person. As I have moved along the path in learning more about who I am, how to take care of myself as an introvert, and how to handle the challenges of life as an HSP - my love of writing has been rekindled and embraced once again. It intertwines with the journey I am on, and is reflected in what I write.
Leila Elizabeth

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