Mugs Full of Memories

Our favorite mugs. My go-to mug is the second from the left.

The inside of my favorite mug is not pretty and it's probably leaching lead into my brain.

One of my oldest and dearest friends is still pretty on the outside but dangerously cracked inside.  I’m wondering whether I should end the relationship but keep putting the thought out of my mind.

I’ve had this flowered coffee mug for at least two decades now.   I look inside it and see a spidery network of tiny cracks, resembling a parched riverbed after several seasons of drought.   No doubt the mug is leaching lead into my morning brew every day, and caffeine is pumping it efficiently into my brain.  But the cascade of coffee quickly hides the cracks and then I forget about the dangers.

Can’t remember who gave it to me.  It was not part of a set, but something passed on to me, once used by someone else. The mug and I bonded instantly.  I reached for it day after day and packaged it carefully when I moved to New England 14 years ago. Sometimes, even when bleary-eyed at 5:45 a.m.,  I bypass other clean mugs and wash this one because somehow the coffee tastes better in it.  This thick stoneware vessel is the perfect shape for holding coffee – with its wide and stable bottom, tapering top and sturdy handle.

Moreover, it has the name “Julia” inscribed in the bottom.  It’s probably the name of a series of dishes from Stonecrest, the company that made it.  Maybe it was the name of the dishware designer’s wife or daughter.  But Julia is also the name of my beloved sister, who lives five hours away.  So this mug is the next best thing to having her with me each morning for sharing secrets and gossip, skewering politicians and waxing poetic over food.

While sister Julia still looks gorgeous at midlife, Julia the mug is starting to show its age.  The handle has a hairline crack and another, wedge-shaped crack.   It is only one fall away from being shattered and useless.

Fortunately we have other mugs that we love.  Only a few of our mugs match and we like it that way.  Along with savoring our coffee we can savor the memories that each mug evokes.  Our mugs are a ragtag and faded lineup but we proudly use them when serving guests.  I  never understood matching sets of mugs.

My husband’s Penn State mug, which I gave him several years ago, is his favorite.  It’s big and blue and manly, and drinking from it feels like having Franco Harris deliver your coffee.  I never drink from it when Bob is home, but sometimes if he’s away on business I use that mug and it helps me feel like he is across the table from me.  Another mug, which is now 15 years old, has the peeling image of the Maryland Science Center on its face.  It’s a souvenir from a very special time at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor with son Ryan, who is nearly 24 now.  The James Madison University mug was a gift from daughter Rachel eight years ago when she was a freshman there; the mug from California’s Diederich Coffee was a gift from Ben, 25; a newer mug features artwork from John, 13.   A much bigger mug – a gift from Bob and John for Mother’s Day – is exclusively for tea.

But Julia, my favorite…I can’t even remember how she came to me!  I vaguely remember another mug from the same manufacturer, perhaps a cousin, that looked somewhat like Julia but with straight sides.  The cousin broke a few years after I acquired it but it was never a real favorite anyway.  As long as she lasts, I’ll enjoy coffee every morning with Julia – the friend who asks for nothing but is always there for me.  When she shatters – and I know it will happen some day – I will mourn.

What’s your favorite mug? What makes it so special?  Please share your thoughts, and pix!