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When Will I Stop Juggling Your Heirloom China?

FILE - In this April 23, 2021, file photo, Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer sits during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington. The Supreme Court is wrapping up its first all-virtual term, with decisions expected in a key case on voting rights and another involving information California requires charities to provide about donors. The court's last day of work Thursday, July 1, before its summer break also could include a retirement announcement, although the oldest of the justices, Breyer, has given no indication he intends to step down this year. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

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FILE - In this April 23, 2021, file photo, Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer sits during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington. The Supreme Court is wrapping up its first all-virtual term, with decisions expected in a key case on voting rights and another involving information California requires charities to provide about donors. The court's last day of work Thursday, July 1, before its summer break also could include a retirement announcement, although the oldest of the justices, Breyer, has given no indication he intends to step down this year. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Everywhere I go these days, I encounter variations on the same question. “Your Honor, when do you think you’ll be done juggling my great-grandmother’s irreplaceable wedding china?” “Your Honor, wouldn’t it maybe be a good idea to put those down?” “Your Honor, does it worry you at all that these floors are made of marble, and that you are very old?”

I would love to put this question to rest once and for all, but the fact is, choosing when to stop hurling your most cherished possessions high into the air isn’t a simple matter. There are multiple factors that play into my decision, which mustn’t be rushed.

The first factor is, I am having a swell time juggling all this china! I don’t expect this to resonate much with you, the frantic owner of the china in question, but it’s been a pleasure to step into the role of senior juggler after all these years and find out just how high these plates can soar. My friends and great-great-grandchildren say that playing fast and loose with your fragile valuables seems to have put a new pep in my step, and that’s something I will need to consider.

Then there’s the problem of public perception. If I were to lay down your treasured dinnerware now, just when you are on your knees tearfully begging me to do so, might not the casual observer conclude that I had timed my decision based on the fleeting concerns of the day? Might I not sully the noble and independent institution of china juggling with the stain of politics? In that respect, the more you demand that I stop flinging these saucers in a reckless arc over my ancient head, the longer and higher I am compelled to fling them.

Uh oh. Whoo-oaaa! Look out!

Haha, I’m just messing with you. Watch, I can toss these bad boys between my legs and catch them behind my back, no problem. You can barely even see my hand tremor.

Let me be clear: I completely understand your anxiety. All around us lie the broken shards of other priceless family heirlooms that previous jugglers in my position have fumbled to the ground. Even now, a number of my colleagues are whaling on your fallen antique silver tea set with baseball bats, mangling it beyond recognition. I’m as horrified by this as you are. It was a beautiful tea set, one that I personally assumed you’d have forever. While I’m sure these guys have their legitimate reasons, my heart goes out to you.

Here’s what’s different about me and this wedding china: I have no intention of dropping it.

That’s right, my whole plan with china-juggling is, I am going to stop before any of it falls. Already I can hear your squeals of protest: “How will you know before it’s too late? Couldn’t it fall at any moment?” Of course it could. I’m simply going to stop before that moment arrives. I’m not trying to make anyone feel stupid here, but I’m getting pretty sick of explaining this. As you can see, your irreplaceable porcelain cups are intact and whipping around in a delightful Rubenstein’s Revenge pattern, so how about a little less nervous moaning and a little more trust that ol’ Stevie B. knows what he’s doing?

Eventually, maybe, depending on the aforementioned matrix of complex factors, I will step aside for the younger replacement you have in mind. You want someone with sharper eyes and steadier hands, someone whom you know won’t frisbee these suckers straight into the fireplace at the first opportunity. I want all of the same things. Just not as badly as I want to see if I can catch this whole stack of dishes on my tongue.

I hope that clears up my position. If you need any further clues about the fate of everything you hold dear, please consider purchasing a hardcover copy of my new book for just $19.95.


Actually written by Sarah Lazarus.