Mary Kellogg’s China Teacups

The Teacups that Mary gave me.     Photo by Jon Katz

“There’s something I want you to help me with” Mary said as we walked into her kitchen.

My friend Jackie Thorne and I were visiting Mary Kellogg.  I brought cookies from the Round House Cafe and Jackie brought her latest poem.

Mary and Jackie are two poets from different generations (Mary in her mid eighties and Jackie in her mid forties)   who connect naturally through their poetry.  Both writing since they were children and only publishing their work later in life.

They met at our Bedlam Farm Open House a year ago.  Since then Jackie and I have visited Mary in her old farm house at the top of a dirt road.  We sit in her dining room, where light pours in through the bow window overlooking a view of the mountains and trees.  (Inspiration for many of Mary’s poems.)   The window sill is covered with flowering plants even in the dead of winter and the many birdfeeders are in constant  flux with visiting  chickadees, nuthatches, sparrows, finches and this afternoon a red squirrel.

But today, before going into the dining room for tea and poetry, Mary pointed to the dozen or so china teacups  drying upside down on a towel and their matching saucers in the dish drain.  “If you would please match up the cups and saucers” Mary said, “then each of you choose two cups  that you’d like to have. ”

Open, on the  kitchen counter, on the other side of the room, was an old book.   Hand written on the first page was a description of each china cup and saucer, where Mary got them, for what occasion and when.

“I used to  use these to have tea with the ladies, Mary told us.  Back then I had them displayed in a cabinet where I could see them all the time.  Now  they’re in a closet and the mice get to use them more than I do. “But don’t worry” she said,  “I’ve washed them all out.”  “I might as well give them away now since I don’t use them anymore.”

My eye went immediately to the cup with the pink flower with brown and green leaves.  Then I turned over a green cup and saw the playing cards painted on the inside of it.  The words ” The Cup of Knowledge” written along the rim.

Who doesn’t want to drink for the cup of knowledge?   My choice was easy.

Jackie chose a cup with delicate flowers inside the cup and another one with birds on it.   We wrapped them in bubble wrap that Mary gave us and put them into two small boxes that she had saved for just this purpose.

Mary would give the rest of the cups to her children and grandchildren.

After that we sat around the dining room table drinking tea, eating cookies and talking poetry.   I took a video of both Mary and Jackie reading their latest poems.

As we were leaving, I imagined me and Jackie visiting each other and sipping tea from our china cups.  And how even if Mary wasn’t there, she’d always be with us.


7 thoughts on “Mary Kellogg’s China Teacups

  1. I felt gladness while reading this. My grandmother was the type to insist on using the “good china” — what good is it stored away? she would say. Use it. Chip it. Love it.

  2. Maria,
    This is beautiful writing and Mary Kellogg sounds like a very lovely person. I have some beautiful teacups and hope some day my daughter will treasure them the way you describe.
    Merry Christmas to you and Jon,
    Vancouver WA

  3. The sweetest of moments with Mary letting you choose your teacups. This was all about the aging process for you all. Just like her poignant poem with the birch trees changing over time. You will never forget Mary.She is a true lady.Love and Happy Holidays to you all, Cindy and Ron

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