Everyone I know has a kitchen shelf cluttered with veteran coffee mugs, like roomers in an old soldiers’ home. I am something of an expert on clutter. Dame Clutter and I go too far back for a divorce, but since moving aboard the Jolly Swag, I have suggested a trial separation.
My friend, Jane, who takes recycling to stratospheric heights, has a clever approach to coffee-mug clutter. Annually, she gathers all her mugs, except for one or two historic favorites, and carries them to her favorite thrift shop, where she donates them. Then for an average price of under a buck apiece brings home a new set of mugs, and her kitchen shelf is reborn.
Last fall I had an idea for the Jolly Swag modification of Jane’s Mug Ritual.
I allowed the six coffee mugs, that have a story of their own, on board. The mug I got at Hilo Hattie’s Hawaiian shirt shop; the mug that was a Christmas stocking stuffer from my Tex-Rican pal, Vitin; the artful mug that came into my life when I wished for a mug that would hold the contents of a 12-ounce can of soup for quick lunches; the Big Hug mug that was a thank you for something; and two others.
I realized the mugs were merely the earthly placeholders for the stories they represented. I could trade away the mug while keeping the stories, getting a new mug and possibly a new story.
My first venture in mug swap came about in a chance encounter in Southern Washington, where I acquired a handsome cup suitable for a tall, hot breakfast tea: an artistic stoneware, decorated in a theme named Tranquil, from Pier One.
My second venture into this new species of conversational gambit was in the home of my friends, Lance and Ginnie, in Oak Harbor, Washington, where I admired a little mug that had a handsome image of a hummingbird. It turned out it was a gift from a student from Ginnie’s days as a music teacher in Alaska. She’d had it for over 15 years and understood the notion that she got to keep the story. I offered her the pick of my litter of mugs. Her eyes fell on the bright colors of the Hilo Hattie’s mug, and the deal was sealed.
I enjoyed that mug all the way to Amboy on route 66 in California, where I encountered Doris Davis on her walk across America. Doris has a special affection for humming birds and offered up a COEXIST mug in trade. And the hummingbird cup is making its way across the country, and COEXIST does teatime duty aboard the JS.
I don’t recall what I traded for the gentle little teacup that seems quite content in residence in my bathroom cabinet, where it hosts my shaving brush.
I do wonder if there are any interesting coffee mug stories among the JS passengers.