Monday, February 23, 2009

Memories in a Coffee Cup

I was putting dishes away the other day when I broke a cup.  Luckily it wasn't all that special, just sort of a generic one we had picked up along the way.  Maybe it was one that someone left here unknowingly.  We have a cabinet that is crammed with mugs and cups.  They are usually what we use when we are not sitting down for dinner, if we want a cup of coffee or water or juice and it doesn't really matter if it matches anything.  I don't know anyone who has quite so many different kinds of cups.  When all the dishes are cleaned the cupboard is packed.  I regularly cleanse them by giving some away when we have collected just too many for them to fit safely.  I have gotten really good at nesting the smaller based ones into the larger ones.  It's a tight fit already and I know it's time to let some go again.  To some it may look trashy to have entire shelves devoted to mix-matched cups.  But most of our cups have the memory of a story or a person attached to them.

First there are the remaining mugs from Heidi's and my set of wedding dishes.  Lots of folks have a really fine set of dishes and silverware that they break out for special occasions.  You know, at Christmas or when the in-laws come over.  Fancy dinners.  We use our wedding dishes daily.  These are Heidi's favorite cups.  Whenever I get her that first morning cup of coffee and there are any of these mugs left in the cabinet I reach for one.  After having been married for 28 years (29 this August) several of these fine mugs have been lost to time.

Then there are cups and coffee mugs given as presents.  Being a teacher, I get coffee cups at most holidays.  I appreciate them too.  I haven't gotten a tie or cologne in years.  For Valentine's Day this year I got two big beautiful coffee mugs filled with chocolates (I told you before that I am rich).  They are large and hearty (as in covered with hearts).  The biggest one is large enough to hold the smaller one inside.  There are Christmas ones of course, with bears on sleds and winter scenes.  One is from my old second and third grade student Elaina.  She is one of the best writers I have ever known.  And such a passion for Civil Rights.  We were blessed to have her share that passion.  She was one of my most powerful teachers for those two years long ago and certainly one of the most enthusiastic teachers in that small classroom.

There are a few from Hawaii. Two are the flowered cups they used to give away free whenever you walked inside a Hilo Hattie store.  One is black with white sea turtles.  Of course these take me back to our beloved beach on the Kona side of the Big Island where we spent so much time with our boys when Heidi and I were doing consulting on the island.  We swam with these beautiful sea turtles , hung out with them on the beach, visited with brilliant teachers in their presence.  These mugs take me back to thinking up with Heidi and our time teaching together.  These mugs are beautiful laid back people, pineapples and mangos, palm trees and sand, manta rays, shells, black rocks, salt, incredible sunsets, Godlight, and yes, delicious coffee.

There is a white mug with red snow skis given to us by our first principal about 30 years ago, before we were married I think.  Sally Hale was more that just our principal, she was one of our best friends.  I haven't spoken with her in many years but when I use that coffee cup I think of her and I smile.  That mug used to be a pair.  I think we left one at my in-law's house.  We were such kids back then.

There are two from National Public Radio.  One has the logo from "A Prairie Home Companion".  When I pick it up I hear Garrison Keillor's voice and the opening theme..."Oh I hear that old piano from down the avenue..."  That cup is big enough to put your head in.

One I got from as a gift for presenting at an SCAEYC conference (South Carolina Association for the Education of Young Children).  It wasn't a paid gig (although I did get the mug and a tote bag).  The teachers were interested and engaged.  I presented at SCAEYC just after 9/11/01.  I had something else planned to present, but I ended up talking about the value of conversation in the classroom.  Real conversation.  I brought in some drawings and taped conversation of my second graders sharing about the bombing of the twin towers.  There was such power there.  I think almost everyone in the room cried when they heard the sadness, the simple brilliance and sweetness in the children's comments.  There isn't anything really special about the cup - it's the memory that matters.

When Devin was a baby at Christmas - 17 years ago - we went shopping at the mall together to buy a present for Heidi.  They had one of those kiosks where you could take a picture and have it plastered-pasted-Vulcan-mind-melded to a mug.  There is 9 month old Devin, leaning on the window in our old condo, the lake behind him, his bright blue eyes shining and a big old toothless grin on his face, wearing a white sleeper - the kind with the feet built right into the outfit.  We have another of those glued-on-picture-mugs when Colin was in first grade, Devin in third.  On that mug whose picture is scraped and worn at the edges, Colin has a gummy smile as he had lost his first upper tooth.  The boys have their arms around each other's shoulders in an embrace of brotherly love.

There is a cup for a small child, given to us as a present when we adopted Devin.  It is fancy.  It is English bone China.  It has pictures of rabbits playing in the snow, sledding, throwing snowballs, building a snowman.  I know it's silly, but it is my first pick if it is in the cabinet when I get my first morning cup.

There are two cups from a school fundraiser that show our guys artwork when they were young.  Devin's has a triangular house.  I remember that triangular house period but maybe I wouldn't if it weren't for that house on that cup.  Colin's is a very symmetrical star pattern.  They reflect who the boys were at that time.

I have a cup given to me by my first class of kids at the Center For Inquiry.  I had those students for two years.  They are in college now, but a caring mom snuck them out of the room and had them write their second grade names on the mug and then had it glazed.  The names are faded now, but not the memories of their faces...  Sana, Amanda, Brain, Richard, Thomas, the two Kyles, Caitlyn, Katy, Reginald, Zac, DeNeal, Tyler, Megan, Shelby, Lindsey, Robert.  Because of this cup I think of those second graders (now 19 and 20 years olds).  Along with their signatures is a crudely drawn apple and the words, "My Teacher, My Friend".

I know it's kind of goofy to write about coffee cups.  There are lots of collections we accumulate as we grow older, books, records, Christmas ornaments, photos.  Many of them bring back special memories, but the coffee cups in the cabinet caught my eye today and as I sip a cup of joe from an old one, the memories keep coming.  The collection of mixed up cups in a cabinet is just one of the many treasures we accumulate over the years.  At the ripe old age of 51, these little sets of memories are part of my blessings, part of why I am rich.

1 comment:

Mr. Brown said...

I love how everyday objects are connected to memories - thanks for sharing those.