Sunday, April 28, 2013

Your coffee mug tells your story

      Stay, or go quietly? There comes a time when I must evaluate each coffee mug resting on my cupboard shelf.
     Basically, it is a matter of necessity. There are lone coffee mugs hanging out on my counter for lack of shelf space. Trouble could be brewing right in front of me. Lonely and bored mugs are prime targets for retooling as pencil and spare change containers.   
     I force myself to be rational and admit that there is no longer a useful life for a chipped mug, although I did pay an arm and a leg for it on a trip to California. No nagging tears. Gone.
      Why on earth would I keep a cup stained from lingering coffee for hours on end when I place it down somewhere never to be found for three days? Good riddance. It will save me from scouring it clean. (I could do the chore out of boredom, I suppose.)
      There is the green mug that has a rim not designed correctly in the first place. I dribble liquid every time I put it to my lips like a sloppy person that I never wish to become. It’s not my fault. Toss it out. Hopefully, the potter has learned better techniques in the investigative process.
     All this is fine and dandy until sentimentality grabs hold of me. Decisions take more effort—yes, you guessed it, another pot of freshly pressed coffee.
     Not only am I particular about my mugs, the coffee that I select is of equal important. There is no difference in the way I treat the common plain Jane mug and the most elegant mug I own—neither deserve cheap coffee, or tea.
     Naturally, the most popular ceramic mugs are right in the front row lined up like toy cars in their colorful splendor—those thrown on a potter’s wheel and others hand built by artist friends.  
     “Choose me, choose me,” they cry, as if they need to demand attention early in the morning. They are the ones selected when it is a matter of pulling from the shelf the closest responder for the first cuppa before the sun rises. It becomes part of my routine, and frankly, I don’t notice them. They get taken for granted and serve well.
     My collection is gathered from all over the country, mostly at festivals or at artist studios where the conversation with the maker is part of the enjoyment of purchasing the special mug.
      In our house, no two mugs are a like, and I do that on purpose. Then again, every piece of pottery we buy is put to use as it is meant to be functional. If a mug gets broken we place it in our rock garden.
     I can tell if a mug speaks to me almost immediately when I see it, too. I put my fingers around it for a comfortable fit and it is light to my hands—the sign of a well-thrown mug by a skilled potter.
     Then too, the color of the glaze has to work in my scheme in life. Size is important to hold the more than enough coffee to get through the first morning awakening period. Smaller mugs are best for tea in the late afternoon.
     There’s my mug I use when I have serious heavy-duty writing and a deadline looming —like right now. It’s motto, “You can’t make this stuff up,” keeps me focused on the task at hand. I would much prefer to be wandering around outside doing a little weed tending. Later.
     When I reach to the very back of one shelf I discover a couple of my favorites hidden away. They have fallen into that "out of sight, out of mind," category, but I can’t bear giving away those handcrafted pieces. Many a predawn I have sipped warm coffee from them meditating on my plans for the day. It’s time to shift those oldies to the front row for a little more attention.
     One mug remains from my husband’s bachelor days that sums up his life before me quite well—”What’s her name?”
     I first noticed this white mug years ago when we were co-mingling our kitchen supplies. I was ready to throw it out because of its anti-femininist statement. No, that wouldn’t be fair, and besides, I have come to understand that my new husband was only joking anyhow. I took it lightly. Frankly, it is never a mug I use. It sits resting reminding us to be ever mindful of women’s rights.
     How wonderful I feel when I use my dedicated Christmas mug on the hottest day in July. It is like the mug and I are conspiring together to toss life up a bit for a smile.
     I still have the stained cup from my teaching days, battle worn and trusty, and although I never use it, it has its rightful place on the shelf for historical purposes. A student gave it to me, and it means something to both of us. He would no doubt be surprised that it has remained in my possession long after he has grown up.
     You can be sure that I’ll never forget which mug I was using while watching the Boston Marathon— and how many fill-ups I needed to make it through the week emotionally.
     Spend a little time with each of your mugs, and listen for their stories.