Writing a blog means we have to find inspiration anywhere. We study the newspaper and reflect back on our activities trying to find deeper meaning in the supermarket checkout line. Sometimes we just look down at our breakfast. That’s where this week’s topic comes from – our mugs of coffee.
When we pour a cup of coffee in the morning, we reach for our favorite mug. If it’s in the dishwasher, we give a sigh and go for our second choice. In the cabinet of 23 mugs, there are really just two or three that we go to.
We do have fine china teacups and saucers, but they rarely get used. When you are young and getting married, it’s fun to register for the toaster oven, the espresso machine, and the complete set of Lenox china with 12 gold-rimmed teacups and matching saucers. But with 100 years of marriage between us, we can tell that you’ll use them once a year on Thanksgiving and then put them away.
Sometimes, we don’t even use the teacups on Thanksgiving, because these days everyone is used to a 20-ounce Grande Venti, and a tiny 6-ounce teacup just doesn’t cut it. Today, everything is supersized. People are bigger, cars are bigger, and everyone wants a good-sized cup of coffee, not a delicate after-dinner sip.
Of course we had to look up the history of mugs on Wikipedia. In the 1950s, we picture June Cleaver holding a teacup and saucer with her pinky extended — so we thought mugs were a modern invention.. We imagined mugs as a product of the casual “burn your bra, smash your fine china 1960s.” We were surprised to see a picture of a lovely ceramic Chinese Neolithic mug from 2000 B.C. They must have wanted a big cup of oolong tea.
While our dinner plate cabinet is fairly organized, our coffee mug cabinet is ongepotchket. We’ve tried to use a mug tree – the useless, wooden, branched thing that takes up counter space. But it only held 6 mugs, which left 17 still cluttering up the cabinet.
When we examined our mug collection, we identified several categories.
Souvenir mugs: When we are in the Grand Canyon gift shop perusing the tchotchkes, we tend to favor a nice mug, a relatively practical item, over the snow globes. You might have guessed that a lot of our mugs came back with us from vacations.
School mugs:We both have a few mugs emblazoned with the names of our children’s schools. Look at what all that tuition money bought – an 8-ounce bright orange mass-produced mug. But they are filled to the brim with memories, so how can we throw them out?
Photo mugs:Thanks to computers, you can put a photograph on anything, and we have. Our kids are grown and their photos are faded, but we can’t bear to throw those mugs away. We feel sentimental when we drink our coffee with the ghosts of childhood past.
Advertising mugs:Then there are the freebies, the ones promoting our local real estate agent or the newest antidepressant on the market, or sending “Season’s Greetings from the gardener.” The souvenir mugs from business conferences go in this category, too. After shlepping our plastic bags filled with pens, post-its and other “fabulous” free stuff through the meeting hall, we had to add the giveaway mug to our collection, at least for a day, until we got tired of looking at “Fort Myers JCC Book Fair 2005: Reach for the Stars.” When the mug shelf gets filled to capacity, these are the first to go.
Paint-Your-Own mugs: We were so proud of the mugs that our kids painted in kindergarten art class and in the pottery store. Our children are so artistic and so talented, so of course their mugs have a place of honor in the cabinet. Sadly, we can only admire them from afar. One tips over too easily; another is chipped. We can’t throw them away because our children made them. Maybe if we had sprung for the $38 large-sized vegetable bowl instead of the $8 mug, we’d have something more useful taking up space in our cabinet.
Faulty mugs:These are the attractive mugs with a fatal flaw — the one handmade by a ceramic artist in gorgeous shades of blue that has a lip so wide you drool with each sip of coffee. The striking one with the bright red cardinal that gets scorchingly hot when zapped in the microwave. The one with the Venetian gondolier that’s too tall for the shelf and top heavy so it spills.
We are faithful to the mugs we love. We keep them even as they age, as their lips chip and their handles crack. But we are always tempted by something new — mugs with silly jokes or Yiddish words. We considered uploading a current picture of our kids to update the ghost mug, and we’re really tempted to order the mug that says, “While you’re talking, I’m silently correcting your grammar.”
But then we’d have to start a second shelf just for mugs, and we’re not going there.