Memories and broken china
As I tidied up after breakfast this morning, I went to put my little teabag dish in the dishwasher, but somehow it slipped over the top rack and smashed on the floor.
I was instantly transported back to my fourth birthday, because this little dish, which happened to be the exact right size for resting a tea strainer on, or holding a used teabag, had started life as a serving dish in the set of doll’s china that was my fourth birthday present. I remember opening the package in bed and setting it out on the tray, balanced on my knees. I remember my absolute delight in the perfection and completeness of the tiny cups and saucers, soup bowls and plates.
And I remember my absolute horror and desolation when I moved my knees and tipped the whole tray off the side of the bed and onto the cast iron radiator.
A very few random pieces survived, but this was the only one that survived till the end of childhood and was incorporated by my daughter into her own tea services. It survived the smashing of much of her china by a visiting child, and when the time came to pack up my daughter’s childhood things, I decided to give this little dish a new lease of life and use it again.
I’d rather not have broken it, but I don’t regret using it; partly because I enjoyed it, partly because accessing memories like this not only gives a greater meaning to life, it’s how I write. The smashing of a tea strainer dish is unlikely to appear in my fiction, but the four year-old’s complicated mix of shock, disbelief, grief and guilt is the type of emotion that fiction draws on.
Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio