Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" The wind outside is howling at 30 mph, there's a foot of snow on the ground, the telly is showing "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," and the sun is setting in blazing glory over the smokestacks of Philadelphia. I tell you, these are good times. Good times!
I have a cousin who was born on Christmas. I'll call her Sugar Plum.
Sugar Plum is at least a decade older than me, maybe more. So as I was growing up, she appeared only as a sort of beautiful princess who I rarely saw. I was still a kid when she left the home county for good, and I only saw her once after that. We have corresponded irregularly over the years.
One night I sat down to watch some old silent home movies of the family. The movies were shot before I was born, but Sugar Plum was in them, a darling little girl in crinoline and patent leather shoes. So the next day I wrote her an email, just to say that watching the home movies made me think of her and hope that all was well.
About two weeks ago I returned from work one evening to find a big box from Sugar Plum. Upon opening it, I found a note ("Dear Anne, this is called a 'butter keeper.'")
The object in the box was a round, symmetrical item about the circumference of a duckpin bowling ball. It is sterling silver, with a domed lid and a glass dish that sits down in a base that has legs. On the lid is a circular engraving with farm scenes, geese and milkmaids and such. There's a butter knife that fits into "arms" that extend from the base. The knife is engraved with the initials of my great-great grandmother.
Spare came in while I was staring at this odd and elegant item, and she summed it up perfectly:
"Who sent us a House Cup?"
For that is what it looks like -- an exotic silver relic reminiscent of a carefully-constructed background scene at Hogwarts.
In 1860, I'm certain my well-heeled female ancestors used this item to keep butter on their festive tables. But I am me, the purpose-shifter. The "butter keeper" is now a House Cup, its knife having been dipped in the waters of Berkeley Springs to bind it to me.
At present the House Cup does have some butter in it. We've been dining in during the holidays, and it's very posh to butter one's bread from a silver domed chalice. After the holidays, however, the House Cup will be dedicated to new and creative uses.
I draw the line at burning incense on the plate, but anything else is warmly possible. One possibility springs to mind: hiding essentials from the faeries. Car keys and cell phones, for instance. Great-great Granny would never have thought of that.
How kind of Sugar Plum to send me a House Cup that belonged to our mutual ancestors! May her year be bright, and may she wander into my path!