Friday, October 10, 2014

The Tarnished Silver Cup

I like to throw things away. People often give me a hard time about it, but I can honestly say I've never regretted getting rid of anything. I'm not cold-hearted, I do keep a few meaningful things. I have my photo albums. I have my Smurf collection. I have my baby blanket stowed in a box in my closet. And I have this silver, engraved cup from Neiman Marcus that my parents' friends gave me when I was a newborn. It sits fairly prominently on a shelf in my bedroom, and I stopped and held it the other day while I was dusting. It reminds me of so many things.

We weren't Neiman Marcus kind of people; we lived in a pink aluminum-siding house and wore handmade clothes. But my mom sure liked that cup. I got the impression that she would have liked more things from fancy stores. It's weird how hopes and disappointments can sit on a shelf in the form of a small silver cup. As I grew up, I admit that things from fancy stores became appealing to me, too, though you wouldn't know it from the choices I made.

At nineteen, I had a boyfriend in a punk rock band, a secretarial job, two roommates, and a lot of freedom. To obtain this freedom, I had packed up my clothes in trash bags and moved out of my parents' house a year before. I had dropped out of college because it got in the way of the lifestyle I was enjoying. This lifestyle consisted mostly of spending time with the boyfriend, drinking, and dancing. I did afford a few fancy pieces of clothing thanks to my trusty credit cards, but those were pretty much maxed out.

One November weekend, at my boyfriend's parents' house, I took a pregnancy test. It was positive. I hadn't considered my goals recently, but nevertheless I was pretty sure that having a baby wasn't going to help my circumstances. I was nowhere near a Neiman Marcus life.

A marriage proposal came haphazardly while strolling the upper level of the mall hours after the pregnancy test. There was no diamond ring, just a Coke from the food court. And no mention of true love and devotion, or any of the stuff that might be forefront in a proposal I would have liked.

I tried to bring up adoption - I was adopted - but he didn't like the idea. He wanted to get married like his parents got married in high school when they were pregnant with him. I'm not sure why his desires prevailed... maybe I couldn't imagine giving away my baby.

If this was really happening - and it seemed to be - my parents weren't going to be happy. I needed to tell them as soon as possible so they could get acquainted with the idea in time to help pay for a wedding. I couldn't fund it on my own, I was having a hard enough time affording cereal.

To spare myself the tantrum my step-dad was sure to throw, I called my mom during work hours and asked her to meet me for lunch. We chose the Jack-in-the-Box between her office and mine. I had never asked my mom to lunch before, and our relationship had been considerably strained since I moved out, so I can only imagine what she anticipated.

Did I look out the window when I told her? Stare at the table? I have no memory. What did I wear on the day I told my mom I was pregnant and marrying a guy she barely knew?

I got the words out. A baby was on the way, there would be a wedding. There wasn't more to say. She said she'd tell my cranky step-dad. And I went back to work.

I have no recollection why I told my coworkers about that Neiman Marcus cup, but I did. Maybe I was being wry about it - lamenting how this baby wouldn't have a silver cup. In any case, a day or two later, one of the women I worked with appeared at my desk carrying a shopping bag. She said it was for the baby and held it out to me. It was a plastic baby cup from Pic-n-Save.

Would my baby have had different standards with that cheap, plastic cup on a shelf in our house, rather than the silver one? Would she be less disappointed in herself over her mistakes? Would it have mattered? I still haven't achieved a Neiman Marcus level in my life. How have my expectations for my children been shaped by what I went through as a young adult? These are all the questions I think about when I dust that cup. And still I keep it. I don't bother polishing it, though. And the plastic one? I confess --- I threw it away.