Chipped Teacups

On the gift of unconditional love

Chipped Teacups


Middle-aged, with curly, graying hair,
she enters my practice, because of her despair.
Layers of fat beneath her floral dress.
Her eyes cast a shadow on all they rest.

“I was never perfect enough for my mother.”
“Last night I dreamed I was fighting a tiger.”
“I refuse to talk to my husband, so we use notes.”
“There were too many words on the one he wrote.”

I listen and think while seated at my desk,
pondering on patterns, weighing what is best.
My mind dissects, and my heart connects.
Busily analyzing, as she reflects.

I know her mother—so many such mothers…
and the unfulfilled need to be good-enough daughters.
The belief that perfection could earn true love,
and contains the power to prevent its loss.

A vision dawns of a chipped teacup lit by light,
sitting on a windowsill, simple and white.
“Even a chipped China cup is perfect,
if it’s loved perfectly,” words interject.

For, love leads to perfection—this is the order.
The yearning and earning of a child can’t change a mother,
who searches for love she lacked from another,
neglecting those she holds, leaving souls to suffer.

On a rainy afternoon, her husband came.
Balding, bent, black umbrella as a cane.
Like J. Alfred Prufrock, obsequious and mild.
A soft voice, with sad eyes, even when he smiled.

“Before my wife became ill, she asked me not to leave.
Alone, in her depression, abandoned to her grief.”
“I promised that I wouldn’t, and I will stay.”
“I don’t care how long it takes, for her to find her way.”

“I removed dirty dishes from the dishwasher.”
“I thought they were clean, so I cleared them for her”
“Now, she refuses to speak with me.” 
“I’ll write shorter notes, if that’s what she wants to see.”

The connection between love and perfection,
gave him the strength to endure denigration.
The chipped teacup became my symbol—
of wholeness and healing from love’s role.

Years later, when writing for a conference,
I remembered the words, my youth, and innocence.
“Even a chipped China cup is perfect, if it’s loved perfectly.”
A sudden shift--of meaning made for me.

My heart filled with what had been given,
to the chipped China cup that I had been,
bathed in sunshine, on the windowsill,
unaware of the light that loved me still.

Alice W. Lee