Hello, San Francisco mug, third choice mug for the one small cup of perfect coffee drunk each morning at dawn. (Why does “drunk” look wrong? Drank. Drinked. Draughted. Sipped. Savored. They all look wrong too.)
The mugs cram, to the extent that they have to be double-deckered, the shelf allotted to them. No teacups pour vous. (Tu? Stop second-guessing your word choices and get on with it.)
No matching sets except for the three – which used to be four before the kitchen-tile-floor-crash-screech-broom-vacuum incident – large flowered Italian ones bought for $1 apiece at a garage sale lo those many years ago, scooped up before that other woman got her hands on them, and you could tell she was just about to, and the two small cobalt-blue patterned ones bought in a pottery store in Mexico lo those many years ago as well.
“Do these mugs contain lead?”
As in, lead that will slowly poison you, rotting away the brain synapses until they are misfiring more often than not, which does seem to be the case much of the time, now that you think about it.
The hell with it! Live dangerously. Maybe the lead will weight you down, keep you grounded, more solid on the earth as you tromp about. Would that be such a bad thing? Your synapses have long been suspect anyway.
Back to the mugs. Return to the mugs. Breathe in mug, breathe out mug.
The Jesus Loves You mug, preserved from early childhood. White china. Faded red lettering. Kept for childhood’s sake, rarely used but for those mornings when you remember swinging your legs on the folding chair in Sunday School, singing Jesus Loves You while Mrs. Steinbacher conducted.
The Smart Women Invest in Real Estate mug, which you blatantly stole from your place of partial and sometime employment, because you loved it and craved it and felt that the greatness of your love would be enough to forgive you. Did you replace it? Yes, but with a mug that even you considered far inferior. Someday, maybe, you will do something to make up for it. If a crime of mug passion can ever truly be made up for.
The How to Eat a Lobster mug, adorned with step by step illustrations on – you guessed it! boy are you a smart one – how to eat a lobster. First you crack it, then you crack it some more, then you extract it with the tiny fork, then you dip it in melted butter, then you eat it. Despite the fact that lobster is your favorite food, you don’t much care for this mug, but your youngest child adores it, and that’s good enough for you.
The 50th Wedding Celebration mug, featuring a fifty-year-old transferred-onto-china photo of a young man and a young woman walking down the aisle. He looks happy. She looks happy. Flowing white dress. Black suit. Poorly transferred onto the china, but a favorite nonetheless, because this used-to-be-young man and woman are beloved to you.
The Cactus mug, one of the five items passed down to you from your maternal grandmother, via your mother. Robin’s egg blue inside, speckled cream on the outside, a saguaro painted on one side. Oh, how you love this mug. You place it in the very back of the mug shelf, the better to keep it safe. Yet your tall son also loves the cactus mug, and he ferrets it out. He sets it on the counter and pours orange juice into it.
You eye the mug, and you eye your son, and you bite your tongue. He looks at you with his knowing, laughing eyes. He knows the story, that the cactus mug is one of the very few things passed down to you from your grandmother, and he knows how you love it, and he knows how difficult it is for you to bite your tongue when he hunts it down from its hidden corner in the far back of the crammed mug shelf.
“Worry not, Kinswoman. I will be careful.”
You try not to worry. But you worry anyway. Oh grandmother, wherever you may now be in time and space and eternity, do you remember the mornings we sat at your tiny formica table, you groaning over your coffee, me silently eating my thickly-margarined toast?
You make a silent vow with your misfiring, possibly lead-poisoned synapses: If all goes well, someday the cactus mug will be yours, Kinsboy, and when you drink from it perhaps you will remember how your mother tried, even though she often failed, to keep from warning you to be careful.