By Elise Seyfried
It looks rather nondescript to the casual observer. It holds hot coffee. It has a handle. What’s the big deal? Answer: it is by far my favorite mug, and it’s a miracle that it’s still on duty.
You see, I have a tendency to break things. I have broken countless glasses over the years, and more than a few plates. This is because I am a clumsy and totally disinterested dish washer. I also break necklaces and lose earrings regularly because I am a slapdash and indifferent jewelry wearer. In short, you should not trust me with any delicate item you own. (I know I certainly don’t!)
And what I don’t break, I lose. “Oh, it’ll turn up!” I say to myself when I am missing my car key, when my favorite mixing bowl disappears, when I am down to one glove. Inevitably, “it” (whatever it is) is never seen again. I’m sure my sister Carolyn regrets that I was the one who ended up with our Nana’s china statues of characters from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” Nana taught music and often staged operettas with her New York City students. The figurines were a treasured retirement gift from them. As of today, I have only one little statue left, and one of the arms has broken off.
On the other hand, there have been several items in my life I have wished WOULD break or be lost, so that I could replace them with better-quality merchandise — yet those are the things that remain with me, no matter what. Hard to justify a new fridge when Old Faithful still chugs along, with its dented exterior, tilted shelves and ice maker that only works when it darn well feels like it. But it keeps the food cold, so technically it still “works.” Ditto my 1980s’ chic mauve bedside table lamps. Yes, they are really ugly. But yes, they still light up, so I guess there’s no urgent need to replace them.
So how is it that I still have my very favorite coffee mug, which I received from my husband Steve on my first Mother’s Day, almost 33 years ago? Not only do I still have it, but it has nary a chip, and the design on the mug is as colorful as it was on Day One (even after countless trips through the dishwasher). It has never once gone missing. It is my mug of choice for my daily four huge doses of caffeine.
Whenever I was pregnant and off the java, my “mom” mug was filled with hot cocoa instead. (And I always thought I had broken the coffee habit at last — until right after each delivery. I’d ask for coffee almost before I’d ask to hold the baby!) It is probably my imagination, but I maintain my brewed Starbucks “bold” blend tastes even bolder when poured into my magic mug.
When our grandson Aiden came along, he was enthralled by my mug. The design (the word MOM spelled out in many different sizes and colors) is an eye-catcher and a great way to practice an early word. Aiden used to have breakfast sitting on my lap, and he would point gleefully to each MOM, vocalizing every one (“Momomomomomomom!”). So now, when I sip my hot beverages, I savor happy memories of my little guy, too.
I know it’s just a thing, and one of these days it is bound to finally break or be lost. But after 32 years, it holds the record for longest-used item in the house, and I hate to think of the day when it will be no more. Oh, I have a cabinet filled with other mugs, souvenirs of trips to Jamaica and Guatemala. A mug from our son PJ’s college semester in Germany. A mug from Think Coffee in Manhattan, where our daughter Julie is a barista. I would be sorry to wave goodbye to any of them. But the “mom” mug has a special place in my heart. It has survived over three decades with me, and that is no small feat. Protecting it requires me to handle it with care, and that is very good for me.
My mug is at my side as I write this. The cheery red and blue and green lettering reminds me that I AM a “mom”, five times over, a fact which, even after all these years, still amazes me. And while I know I define myself in other ways too, my favorite role in life is right there, and I hope it always will be. Printed on an ordinary, extraordinary coffee mug.
Elise Seyfried is Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland. She is also an actress, wife, mother of five and co-author (with husband, Steve) of 15 plays for children. Her self-published book, “Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life,” is a collection of essays, humorous but with a spiritual focus, which can be purchased for $15 plus shipping through www.eliseseyfried.com.