A to Z 2016 · Creative Exercises

T is for Tiny Tea Set

Another creative exercise, this one from Susan Hanniford Crowley’s website:

Everyone has something that is passed down in their family, anything from a piece of jewelry to furniture. If you don’t then let’s say you’ve inherited a strange clock from an uncle who lived in South Africa. Write the history of your inherited item — where it came from, any funny or weird stories about its creation, anything unusual about the item itself, and any letter that came with it. This is a fun exercise especially useful for people who write mysteries.


Since the only real things that are passed down in my family are some jewelry pieces and a weird anatomically correct statue of a Clydesdale — and neither options started with T — I went with something completely fictional.


The Tiny Tea Set

Complete with a sugar bowl and creamer, the delicate porcelain tea set had been in the family for over a hundred years by the time it reached my hands. With dishes only a couple inches wide it was the perfect size for tiny fingers and teddy bears.

The set originally belonged to my great-grandmother, as a gift from her father. Some of the details are fuzzy, but he was on a trip to Germany for some reason or another, and sent it on ahead, to the fancy Manhattan apartment they lived in on the Upper East Side. Before he was able to follow, however, he apparently died under mysterious circumstances.(His body was never sent back to the U.S., and no one really knows what happened.)

My great-grandmother therefore treasured it, the last thing her beloved father had given her before he passed away. She kept it throughout her life, and gave it to my grandmother when she was a child.

Grandma also treasured it; besides a doll or two, the tea set was the only toy she was allowed to keep during the Great Depression. My great-grandparents were hit hard, and had to sell off the majority of their possessions to survive.

My mother got it when she was young, and when she was much less careful than she is nowadays; it’s because of her that the handle on the teapot lid is broken off, and likely the reason why one of the saucers was chipped.

Because of that, I wasn’t allowed to have it until I was in my twenties. Before me, the set had seen so many parties with dolls and bears and various other animals of all shapes and sizes. But my mother restricted it for display, not for play, and didn’t want to have it broken any further by my tiny child hands.

Which, while understandable and all, means that I’m a twenty-something with a doll’s tea set displayed in my apartment. Doesn’t really go with the rest of my aesthetic…

But because of the history of it, it will always have a place of honor in my home.


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