cup art nouveau

By Mary Louise Van Dyke

(C) 2015 All Rights Reserved

A posting by my daughter-in-law got me thinking today about the importance of symbols in our lives, in particular, the humble cup

The furor over the controversial red Starbucks cup appears to be lessening now. Folks who have vowed to boycott the grandfather of gourmet coffee are doing so and sipping their heated beverages out of self-approved containers. And many of us are going about our business as usual and drinking our Starbucks cappuccinos and chai latte tea’s out of – gulp – red cups.

What meaning does this holder of hot liquids really have? Is it really intended to caption our religious beliefs or humanistic values? Or simply serve as a container?

I wonder what Indiana Jones would say to that. In the “Last Crusade” Indy searches for the holy grail, the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper. He searches through a collection of cups, many gold and glittering, and finally correctly selects a simple wooden vessel. One a carpenter’s son might have used.

Cups. No shortage of them in the apartment I share with my mother. One of the cupboards is filled with cups and saucers, plates, and other bits of porcelain, all belonging to mom. Purple and plum colored cups, vintage Staffordshire cups embellished with pink roses and purple posies, and one or two cups of blue. You can easily tell what Mom’s favorite colors are. And if one doesn’t feel this collection is sufficient, they can browse through china hutches, or in the dishwasher that serve as homes for orphaned crockery

You may wonder how many cups I possess. Well, two that I alternate between for drinking purposes, one that holds my toothbrush and toothpaste, and a few that are in storage waiting for release on the day I can afford my own home. Including a lovely vintage cup that was a gift to me from a friend, in honor of her late mothers’ love of delicate English porcelain and tea time.

A friend of mine shares her adoration for coffee on her FaceBook timeline. Mornings are incomplete without heavy doses of the caffeinated brew. I imagine her cup is sized to hold a liter at a time, and equipped with an internal heater. It might be a bit heavy to lift. However, I know my friend would cheerfully endure aching muscles. Sacrifices must be made to stay java-nated.

And then there is the image I “pinned” today. A little girl with unbrushed hair smiles as she sips tea from a cup. The caption states she received it “from the advancing Allied armies” who had just cleared her town of Hitler’s troops in 1944. I imagine she kept the cup the rest of her life. Remembering the combined tastes of tea. Warmth. Hope.  

So what do cups mean? So many things depending on who we are, and what we most cherish. As for a red Starbucks cup controversy I think Starbucks should offer decals along with each cup. Let sippers select the one of their choice to anoint the red cup, whether it be a scene of the Holy family, a menorah, Kwanzaa candles, or images of the Earth or stars or favorite pets.

Let the arguing stop. May we all lift our cups and give a toast. Here’s to us human beings who inhabit this planet. May everyone’s cup be filled with goodness this holiday season.


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