A few days ago, my husband and I were in the kitchen in order to discuss what we wanted to do about dinner. While we were talking about it, I wandered into the dining room. We don’t typically use it, as we don’t presently have a table, but we do have a few things on a shelf against the window. One of which being my tetsu kyusu tea set. I wandered over and admired my tea set, until suddenly I noticed that there were curious white spots on it. I picked up a cup, and found that there were indeed a small number of tiny, white specks scattered on the inside. I found my gaze darting all over the set with mounting horror, until I carried the cup to my husband and asked him, “Is this… paint? From when you were doing the walls a few weeks ago?”

He replied in the affirmative, and I felt increasing levels of horror and pain wash over me. I wondered how they (my husband and mother-in-law who assisted him) could have so callously and carelessly destroyed something that they must know I care about, and either not even notice or not think to tell me. I ran a fingernail over a speck of paint in despair, and then realized that the speck came off when I did so. I checked the cup, and it was unmarred where the spot had been removed. Despite my resentment, I felt a spark of hope bloom that I might still be able to keep them.

One at a time, I picked up each piece of the set. Each cup, each saucer. The teapot, the chafing dish, the trivet. I went over every one with great focus, gently scraping off each speck of paint I found. As I did so, I reflected on my emotional response to what had happened. I reminded myself that they hadn’t known it had occurred, it was genuinely an accident. Then I considered why I cared so much about the set to begin with. It had been a gift from my ex-fiance. There was nothing special about who it came from. But when I reflected on when I got it, I realized it wasn’t that simple. My ex-fiance and I had been out with my mom, and we went to a shop that sold them. When I was admiring them, my then-boyfriend told me that I should pick one out, and it could be my birthday present. It wasn’t something he chose with care. It was something that I chose, and he was relieved he didn’t have to put forth any effort. It was important to me because it was mine and I had chosen it, not because of who it came from or why or how much it cost.

As I cleaned the paint off, I was also doing something else to them: I was wiping the dust off. They all had it. If this set was so precious to me that I would be upset at the thought of it being marred, why did I then leave it sitting and never think to clean it? It makes sense that I don’t use it all the time: It holds significantly more tea than I typically need in a day, and it’s more effort to use a pot and small cups than to make a mug at a time. But that doesn’t mean that it deserves to gather dust. If I care so much, why do I not take better care of it?

And that’s the most important thing, I realized. It’s not that it got tiny paint spatters on it. It’s that it had that paint on it for a few weeks and I never even noticed. I was feeling guilty, and trying to blame other people. I forgave them, and then I forgave myself. And from now on, I will make a point of trying to keep the dust off even if I am not using it. Because we should cherish and appreciate the people and things that we care about, and not take them for granted.