A pair of espresso cups, a substitute for a memory.
May 29, 2012
The first day of the workweek begins today. Memorial Day weekend is a memory now. I am drinking un secundo espresso con zucchero, my second espresso, laced with brown organic sugar. I decide to draw my collection of coffee cups. I begin with a pretty pair of espresso cups.
Everything has meaning. The cup I drink from this morning was purchased in an upscale Minnesota department store in Bemidji. I bought a matched pair, hand painted in Thailand with stripes and flourishes and dots in cobalt blue and swimming pool turquoise green. They are porcelain, designed by Marianne Vinich (© 1999). They are the first espresso cups I owned. I purchased them after my return from a third artist’s residency in Umbria, after living in Italy for six months. It was the first Christmas after 9-11. I was always cold, the long dark days were depressing and I missed Italy.
The cup I drink from this morning is a poor substitute for the set of handmade Deruta espresso cups I saw in a little sundries shop in Corciano eleven years ago. Every time I walked by the store I wanted to purchase the matched pair of little espresso cups and saucers I saw displayed in the window. I longed for those cups to drink my morning espresso in. Why do I insist on a special coffee cup? It’s part of the morning wake up ritual.
It was an Italian story. Every day I walked by and looked at those cups, imagining them in my kitchen, on my little table. I pictured myself in the kitchen, drinking my morning espresso from those cups. I pictured other Italian self pouring espresso for a guest, the pair of cups put to good use and admired by both of us. I wondered about the dark, mysterious store filled with sundries, these cups part of a jumble of objects in the little front window. The store was never open when I went by. Then one day when I caught it open, I had no money. After weeks of coveting these special cups suddenly the door to the store was opened and the lights were on. And I had no money–not a single lire with me.
And somehow I just knew that even if I ran back up the cobblestone street to my apartment, and ran up the four flights of stairs to ultimo piano, and dug out my lire, counting it three times to make sure I had enough, by the time I returned to the shop it would be as though I dreamed it open, and it would be mysteriously dark again, with the door tightly closed and locked, chiuso hanging in the window.
I try to take pleasure in the pair of espresso cups I have. Some mornings I appreciate them. They really are pretty. Yet they are forever linked in my mind to the handmade pair of Deruta espresso cups that got away. It was an unrequited love affair.
How do objects become charged with meaning, and carry a memory more than a decade later? I still remember those espresso cups, a little story of regret and longing, a little Italian story of opportunity missed.
Note–inscription on the underside of the cups:
Hand Painted in Thailand
Herman Dodge & Son Inc