My great grandmother Emma received an enormous china cupboard as a wedding present, meant to hold her wedding china, a chrysanthemum-sprayed Haviland Limoges pattern. More than a century later, many of its pieces survive. The teacups, nearly transparent, show the hardest wear, but even the broken ones call out to be saved, delicate and ladylike in their distress.
The cupboard stands in my living foom, older than this house by 30 years. Movers wondered if it would come through the door, but its three triangular pieces just squeezed through the vestibule. Its shelves groan and sway with the weight of china and silver aging gently beside my mother's Royal Doulton ladies, their dresses blowing in an imaginary breeze.
Down below the widest, least supported shelf worries me. It holds things we hide from view or tuck away to make room for nativity scenes or spring flowers on the mantelpiece. A rotating set of family photographs rests here between turns on top of the piano. The man-sized stole given me as an ordination gift lies unworn in its box.
I look at the sides of the cupboard and wonder if it would survive another journey? Its joints loosen with age.