Saturday, November 16, 2019


Every summer we look into our kitchen cabinet and ask ourselves, “What is the deal with all the mugs?”

And every winter we respond, “Oh, right.  That’s the deal.”

I like mugs.  They are probably my favorite type of cup, and one of the many reasons I know for a fact that I am no longer young and interesting is that I have a favorite kind of cup but I am okay with that since I was never exactly the life of the party even when I was young.  I like mugs.  What can I say.

Someday I may just build a little cubby thing and display them.  Not sure where, really, and given my carpentry skills this may just be an invitation to disaster.  But perhaps.  We’ll see.

For a while when I was a kid it became a thing in my family to give each other mugs at Christmas.  This was back in the 1970s.  I liked it as a thing, but it didn’t last long.  There are only so many mugs people need, really.

One of the first things I got from my undergraduate institution was a Campbell’s Soup mug.  It came in the Standard New Freshman Box (male version), along with a stick of deodorant, a couple of condoms, a few pamphlets on mental wellness and the perils of drugs and alcohol, and a Kurt Vonnegut novel.  And, as I recall, a can of actual Campbell’s soup.  I don’t know if they still do this sort of thing anymore – certainly none of my current students have ever heard of Kurt Vonnegut, let alone read any of his novels.  This is a question I do actually ask them when I teach my class on the atomic bomb, shortly before waving around a copy of Slaughterhouse Five and launching into a description of the firebombing of Dresden.  I think it would be a shame to let that tradition die out.  The New Freshman Box thing, I mean.  Not the firebombing.

I still have that mug.

I have mugs from my mother’s former place of employment – several of them in fact.  One of them is cobalt blue and says “Title Person” on it, and there are precious few of us left who get that joke anymore. 

I have mugs from several of my own places of employment, some of which technically no longer exist.

One of the things I did to treat myself when I was hired as a full-time adjunct five or six years ago was splurge on a Doctor Who mug.  I’ve got a couple of them now, as well as a Game of Thrones mug with my favorite bit from the series on it (“And what do we say to the god of death?”)  I’ve got a mug with a map of Klatch on it.

In our cabinet there are mugs from Sweden, painstakingly carried across the ocean in our carry-on bags.  Mugs that we got as wedding gifts.  A mug from the bed and breakfast Kim and I got engaged in.  Several mugs with the Philadelphia Flyers logo on them, and one with the Sons of Ben logo – perhaps the coolest sports-related logo around.  I’ve got one with a Lincoln quote (“Folks who have no vices have very few virtues”) that I picked up at the Lincoln Museum in Springfield.  There are a couple given to me by my children, purchased at those little pop-up Christmas Gift Shops that spread stuff out in a big room in the elementary school so the kids can buy things for their parents.  Another with the Bill of Rights on it where your rights disappear before your eyes every time it gets into hot water, sort of like living under a GOP administration.  A Phillies World Series mug.  At least one random mug that was left behind somewhere and claimed by us rather than tossed.  And so on.

A lot of mugs, in other words.

In the summer this seems like overkill.  You can get by with maybe two mugs total in the summer, since there are only so many hot beverages one is likely to consume when it is cooler inside your body than outside of it.

But in the winter – which we seem to have entered here even though it is still more than a month before the solstice proper – it is amazing how many mugs you can go through.  Tea.  Coffee.  Cocoa.  Repeat.  Instant muffins.  Lauren would make homemade mac-n-cheese in them.  They are the perfect kitchen implement.

The cabinet empties out.  The dishwasher and the sink fill up.  We start to run low on mugs in a way that seemed impossible when we were wearing short sleeves and cranking up the air conditioning.  But winter is made for staying inside with a warm beverage and a good book, and if the book is too often work-related the tea is still warm.

We have a lot of mugs.  I suspect this will not stop me from adding to the collection.

As vices go it’s relatively harmless.


LucyInDisguise said...

Mugs are more than the inanimate objects they appear to be as they sit upon a shelf. Like all memorabilia, each triggers a story …

And now you’ve done it again.

Slaughterhouse Five was one of a number of books I would have never picked up and read of my own volition. included in that list I was introduced to by a Teacher are Animal Farm, 1984, Catcher in the Rye and an entire host of others. (Precisely how many are in a ‘host’, anyway?)

And Dresden. That was History. History is a thing I never paid attention to until someone like you taught me to love it. Without you, and others like you, this world would be an appreciably inferior environ. (I’m actually headed somewhere with this, so hang in there …)

Mugs are living memories - and you have triggered some of mine …

My most cherished mug is my ‘Air Force’ mug. There is nothing special about it, no words, symbols, or images - just a simple, plain white mug. Nothing would set it apart from any mug you’d find in any reputable coffee shop anywhere, except perhaps the indelible stains, and the memories attached to having it sit on the console in front of me for three years.

When my wife’s parents died, we discovered a cache of collectibles. It made me very melancholy - the realization of so many memories lost …

I see the list of Followers over there in the sidebar. They’re there for a reason. I’m certain there are others like myself that aren’t there. You do something here of Great Value, David, and you should understand that friendly requests for more are nothing more than cheers of “Encore” from the crowd.

I feel privileged, nay, Honored, to be allowed to provide comic relief for such a worthy endeavor.

Now, on to more pressing issues:

About building a curios cabinet for your mugs: you do realize that you can just buy one at the store or online, right? Lots of styles and prices to choose from. And if you order in the next 22 minutes, they’ll include free shipping at twice the normal rate.

As to the “summer overkill” thing, I would like to point out that mugs can help keep your favorite cold beverages cool as well (maybe even add an ice cube or two?) and may, therefore, be used year ‘round.

Jus’ thinking outside the (ice)box, as it were …


David said...

Thanks for the kind words, as always. I find myself in one of those slow periods where I don't have much to say, and it's nice to know that there are people happy to read things when I do write them.

Yes you can make me laugh but you also make me think and that is a grand thing. Thank you for that.

Part of why I write this is to avoid precisely that melancholy of memories and stories lost. I go back and read some of the older posts and I'm surprised at how much I would have forgotten. It all seemed so permanent then. I hope my kids find it interesting someday. A lot of genealogy is just trying to recapture something of those old stories, as best one can.

I hope you're writing down those stories too, somewhere, so people know it's not just a simple white mug.

I've looked into buying such a cabinet, but I haven't found precisely what I am looking for yet. I know what I want it to look like - something with mug-sized square cubbies that I can put the mugs I want to display in and then take them out if I need extra mugs. Mostly the things I find are either hooks to hang them from or full-sized curio cabinets.

Summer beverages get consumed out of larger containers than my mugs. :)

LucyInDisguise said...

"... I go back and read some of the older posts and I'm surprised at how much I would have forgotten. It all seemed so permanent then. I hope my kids find it interesting someday. ..." *

Trust me >>>> they will. And so, you have discovered a way to send your stories down through the ages.

Way back in the forever ago, someone had the absolutely brilliant idea to have my maternal grandmother record her memories on cassette tapes. I had the dauntingly difficult task of combining and editing 22 hours of stories down to 19 hours and making it as coherent as possible. The only things I could cut were the duplications. Even some of those I left in because of variations in the telling of the story.

I learned something from that adventure. Quite a bit, actually - and so I've left little easter eggs scattered throughout my existence.


You used to run a freaking museum. Use the force, Luke.

Summer beverages require the creation and frequent refilling of memories


*See, I actually do understand a proper use of ellipsis ... 😁

David said...

I have one tape I made of my mother's parents back in the 1980s, for a college project on life during the Depression. I finally went out and bought one of those little gizmos that lets you digitize cassette tapes (about $40 on Amazon) and turned it into mp3s and sent it out to everyone in my family. If I never use that gizmo again it paid for itself then and there. My brother even cleaned up the audio on it. It's nice to hear their voices again. I spent some time this summer recording conversations with my mom too.

Historians are not good at small stories, as a profession. We're good at big things. The economic roots of the Depression. The rise and fall of political parties. But the little stories? Not so much. That's why people have to write them down. Otherwise they get lost.

This whole blog is just stories. I knew that from my very first post: "Here I write what I wish to remember, and if it is worth reading then so much the better. "

I'm glad you've left your easter eggs for people to find. May you not hide them too well.