Jenna Kowaleski column: Memories in a mug
As I get older, isn’t it only natural that my coffee mug collection continues to expand? Isn’t a cupboard bursting with mugs a sign of a life well-lived?
It’s 5:30 a.m. on a Wednesday and I’m huddled under a blanket. The February wind is banging at our old windows, which concede a steady trickle of icy air. I pick up a handmade green and brown mug of fresh, hot coffee and let the steam melt my frozen nose.
And, suddenly, with this mug in my hand, I’m no longer in the thick of winter in a sunroom saturated by night, hiding from the howling winds of winter. It’s no longer mid-work week, with deadlines and commitments swirling behind me and before me.
Instead, I close my eyes and I can hear the clean ding of a little bell above an old white wooden door. The sun streams in through a wall of windows as air conditioning settles on my freshly sunburned skin like morning dew. The unfiltered smell of cooking, baking, melting and packaged sugar tickles my brain.
I’m in Great Lakes Candy Kitchen in Knife River and I’m picking out a treat that is sure to melt before I can finish it as I sit outside on colorful lawn furniture.
The coffee mug was cold in the store, but it’s now warm in my hands. I’d picked up this memory-packed mug a few summers ago after an afternoon of picking agates. It’s green and its lip is dipped in brown, giving it the overall effect of a caramel apple. It’s the perfect candy store coffee mug.
And while I’m fond of this specific coffee mug, it’s not the only mug in our house that transports me at the touch of the handle. One colorful mug takes me up to the Naniboujou Lodge north of Grand Marais, its grand dining room dazzling me all over again.
Another mug, covered in skyscrapers and taxis, plops me down onto the stairs of Rockefeller Plaza, where I’d dropped it moments after I’d purchased it (and it miraculously didn’t break).
Sipping out of another mug from a “Peace, Love, Coffee” phase of life, I’m a college kid in oversized sweatpants trying to expand the margins of a Word doc to shrink a 22-page paper to meet a 20-page maximum.
And then there’s the coffee mug that came into my life shortly before I became a mom, sporting a daily mantra of encouragement.
I love our coffee mug collection. What better way to accumulate and recall memories than through a vessel that can be revisited every day? What better way to start a day than by holding a special moment in your hands?
My proclivity to collect mugs has caused a bit of an overflow situation in one of our cupboards. It has also inspired a “one cup in, one cup out” household policy that, though I see the logic in, I’ve never agreed to, and I’ll probably continue to circumvent.
Because life is the collection of memories. And memories are for reliving. Summer memories on a cold winter morning. Adventurous memories in the quiet moments between major life events. Memories of youth when responsibilities begin to overwhelm. Memories of love between sips of chamomile before bed.
As I get older, isn’t it only natural that my coffee mug collection continues to expand? Isn’t a cupboard bursting with mugs a sign of a life well-lived? Not only because of the memories collected, but also in the intentionality of reliving and enjoying some of its best moments?
So, today I ask you to look beyond your newspaper or phone (however you’re reading this) and think about the drinking vessel on your table. What happy memory does it invoke? Take a moment to close your eyes and be in that memory.
And, if there’s no happy memory tied to your mug, get rid of it. Cupboards are too small for memory-less coffee mugs. And maybe pick up a new one the next time you stumble into a souvenir shop.
Jenna has lived, hiked and written in the Duluth Hillside for a decade. Find more of her scribblings at jmackenziewrites.wordpress.com .