Throwing a shoe at them seemed like it should work. But it usually proved to be either too heavy to actually reach the ceiling or too light to dislodge the target. And if it was a boot or clog, it could cause some real damage on the way down too. I really didn’t get the appeal of trying to knock them down in the first place, it just made the living room look unfinished and off-kilter, like a carved pumpkin with its few teeth knocked out by a teenage vandal. But our visiting friends often couldn’t help themselves to try to knock one down. We learned that a tennis ball did the trick with the least amount of destruction but none of us Kriders were tennis players and rarely had any around. Most of those cups never budged and were still in place when I went away to college.
“Why are they up there?”, a new visitor would ask once they glanced up.
“Accoustics or something?”, someone might offer.
My most common response was a shrug or if I was feeling talkative, I’d say, “Art, I think.”
How many styrofoam cups had my dad glued to the ceiling of the living room of my house on Woodlawn street before he moved out when I was just a baby? Hundreds I guessed. I never had to patience to count them. Those cups that were lodged up there for almost two decades seemed just as mysterious to me a child as the man who had glued them up there.
Why did my dad glue styrofoam cups to cover the entire ceiling? Maybe because they looked cool, a pattern of white circles that were both somehow space-age and comforting. Maybe he was bored and wanted a project around the house. I don’t ever remember asking him why he put him them there, what I remember is that people loved to try to knock them down. But for something so light and seemingly insubstantial, those cups didn’t come down easily.
Recently I walked in a gathering at a neighbor’s house and heard my maiden name of Krider mentioned over my shoulder. This doesn’t happen very often these days. I looked into the eyes of a man I had gone to both middle and high school with. It was fun to take a stroll down memory lane with him, asking if we had kept up with various people we had both known. He called to his wife and some point and told her about the cups on our ceiling. This is what he remembered about my house.
My family always felt different and cups on the ceiling was a small, superficial way in which that was evident. Once, when my therapist told me that I had shown some real resiliency in a situation I had gone through, it felt like the highest compliment I could imagine and I thought of those cups. So much of life we really don’t get to control, most of what we’ve got is our own actions and behaviors. It doesn’t always feel like a choice of how we behave but experience has shown me that a living with a sense of volition is living well. The older I get, the more I realize that taking responsibility for my own life is a key to my own contentment.
It’s my forty-seventh birthday tomorrow. I’m happy to be alive and grateful to be getting older. I think about those styrofoam cups of my childhood, taking hits from shoes in all directions and for the most part staying intact. I think of the cups that were maybe art, maybe misunderstood, certainly resilient and stood apart as unique. I can’t think of a better symbol of the family I came from and the family I’ve created. I herby christen my forty-seventh year the Year of the Cup.