The one thing I inherited from my grandparents was their china: four sets, more or less complete, depending on the care they were given and their luck. I have always known these sets, for they greeted me in my grandparents’ dining room for about thirty years. They were faithful owners of the china cabinet residing in that room; proud owners too: their image was multiplied by the mirror on the back wall of the cabinet.
When the house was full of guests, the cups and plates were descending on the large table in the dining room to assist and participate at ceremonies and celebrations. In summer time, they were travelling to the backyard, to honour the sometimes unexpected guests who were offered coffee and home-made jam. These sets of cups and plates were silent witnesses of the lives of people owning or transiting the house on Sfântul Elefterie, numărul 50, București, România. They shared daily joys or quarrels, happy or miserable times, birthdays, Christmases, Easters, births and deaths of people in my family. Their immaculate surfaces are populated with many memories.
After a long habitation in my grandparents’ house, the beautifully crafted porcelain followed me over the Atlantic, wrapped in newspapers. Newspapers’ stories must have cushioned them well, as none broke during this long journey even though the suitcases they were in came apart in transit.
A while ago I used one of my cups to offer coffee to a schoolmate who was visiting me. I was new to Canada and not accustomed to the size of the mugs coffee is poured in on this side of the Atlantic. “Such a small cup?” my friend says. I was surprised at her reaction as this was the largest cup of all my three sets! Times have changed since the days of my youth when time appeared to be standing still. My grandparents and their peers’ slow-paced, convivial lifestyle is more difficult to replicate in a society where rushed people are lining up in the morning at Tim Hortons for a “double-double”. To the rushed people in need of a quick injection of caffeine, my chalices may seem obsolete, maybe useless. Cups like mine do not have a plastic lid, and certainly do not fit in cars’ cup holders as their fine handles are in the way.
A Love you grandma type of cup doesn’t speak to me of my past. Cupping my chalices does. It reminds me of the time in my life when people were gathering around the table to just be together, not necessarily needing a plan for their meetup, a defined purpose. At that time ease and conviviality were as easy to find as the air we breathe. These days I make attempts to find that sense of conviviality. I go on Facebook. Maybe I should try Instagram instead. My daughter is telling me that she has 483 followers on Instagram. Is that the way to go?
Once in a while I happen to drink coffee from my daughter’s Hollstein cup that I purchased online as a Christmas gift – it was on her shopping list. It is inspired by Carmilla, a vampire series she is watching online and is imprinted with a darker red glass of what appears to be blood. Quite the difference between my inherited set of cups and what my thirteen year old daughter fancies! Whether or not Lizetta will at some point in time be interested in finding out stories told by the genies in my cups remains to be seen…
This story on the object of exile was written for the graduate seminar in translation studies, Travel, Displacement and Translation, at Glendon College (York University) in Toronto. Students also participated in the exhibition on the narrative of objects in exile held in March 2016 as part of the 7th annual conference of the graduate program in translation studies at Glendon.
Ce récit dédié à l’objet de l’exil a été préparé dans le cadre du séminaire de Maîtrise en traductologie, Voyage, déplacement et traduction, au Collège Glendon (Université York) à Toronto. Les étudiantes ont ensuite participé à l’exposition sur la mise en récit des objets en exil lors du 7e colloque annuel du programme d’études supérieures en traductologie qui a eu lieu en mars 2016 à Glendon.