Everything had to be just so. The steam would start to rise from the pour spout, and the sound of water boiling would fill her small apartment. The teabags seeped in a small china cup just so long, occasionally stirring to bring out more flavor. We’d sit in the afternoon sun by the French doors to her small patio and sip tea. She’d tell me stories about her life, her adventures, and the people she’d met.
I shook my head to clear those days from my mind, days that I treasured. Now the teapots were only a reminder of her. The small apartment still smelled of perfume, and her little keepsakes cluttered the shelves. I found an old photo album. Sitting on her bed, I reverently opened the album. I had known she’d lived in this apartment forever, but seeing old black-and-white pictures of it and a much younger version of her still surprised me.
In one photo, I recognized one of the teapots. The date scribbled in the margin of the page told me it was from the 1940s. The apartment seemed much bigger in the pictures, probably because she had yet to collect the items that filled the space now. Another picture was a close-up of her face. She seemed to radiate in the warmth and love I’d known her for even then. Leafing through the pages, I noted as the years went on how she changed as she grew older, and the collection of teapots increased as the images became color and better quality.
She favored the French doors opening onto a small balcony as a photo backdrop. Carrying the book, I stood in the same spot as she’d stood in many photos and looked out over the city from the small balcony.
Turning around, I noted the cluttered room filled with furniture, knickknacks, and pictures on the walls. The room’s main focus was the large sideboard where her collection of teapots sat on a white linen cloth., positioned so that the afternoon sun would reflect off their shiny surface. Festive blades of light darted deep into the room.
I flipped through the pictures again, and one caught my eye. In the background behind her, I could barely make out the Eiffel Tower. Scanning the horizon, I spotted the infamous tower in the distance. At least some things hadn’t changed.
My wife and I were in Paris to say goodbye to my favorite aunt, who had raised me and saved my life many times. In the coming days, we had the task of packing her memories and mementos. As we left for the funeral, I glanced at the teapots, which glinted in the afternoon sun.
There was no question the teapots were coming home with me.