In my current grad school class that focuses on fiction writing, our assignment is to write a “diptych” or “triptych,” two or three stories that are linked the way stories would be linked in a composite novel. These linked stories are able to stand alone but are related in such a way that, when read together, they give the reader that much deeper an understanding of each individual story.
I have a visual diptych right here on my porch, two diverse stories that have very little to link them until today, because today my husband and I hung up the shelf and washed my teacup collection.
The shelf is not just any old shelf, you see. This shelf means so much to me because it came from my Grandpa Chaffee. And it isn’t even a shelf; it’s a mail sorter that came from a post office in a tiny town many many years ago. My grandfather was a rural mail carrier all his life. He exemplified the old saying, “Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor hail” would keep the mail from getting through. He drove his big old car all over those country roads. If he couldn’t get through due to western Pennsylvania snowfalls, he would strap on his cross country skis, grab the poles, and get the mail up to the house. My dad recalls riding with him at times and getting to be the one to cross all manner of difficult terrain to make sure the mail got through.
Somehow my grandfather ended up with this mail sorter and it ended up in the barn on his property (the barn my cousins and I spent many a happy afternoon exploring as our parents yelled at us to “stay off the second floor” because they were certain we’d fall through). The post office probably remodeled and updated, and gramps asked to keep the sorter. Maybe grandma thought she could do something with it. Maybe gramps just couldn’t bear to see it tossed away.
I’m glad he did that. My husband immediately saw the potential in it when we cousins were asked to take what we wanted from grandpa’s home after his death. We decided on the mail sorter.
Now for part two.
The teacups are a collection I began years ago when someone told me I should collect something and I couldn’t figure out what. Collections seemed odd to me–why have lots of something that just sits around? I decided if I was going to collect something, those things might as well be useful. Teacups seemed to fit the bill–beautiful yet usable. These teacups have special meaning to me because I began the collection when my family lived in Europe during my high school years. Every time we visited a country, I purchased a teacup. So these cups represent much of Europe. (Of course, my high school mind thought I would remember where I bought each one, and my 50-plus-year-old mind hasn’t a clue. I recall the one I bought in Paris, but that’s it. That’s kind of sad, really.) Many other cups are gifts from family and friends wanting to add to my collection. I have full-size cups and several demitasse cups. They are beautiful works of art. Just looking at them makes me happy.
Quite by accident, I discovered that the teacup saucers fit exactly in the spaces between the slats of the mail sorter. Voila. My own personal diptych–two stories now fit together. A mail sorter from a time past when folks stopped by and visited one another and shared conversation and a pot of tea.
Would you like to stop by? Tea’s brewing . . . and you can choose from a fine collection of teacups!