My 14 year old is doing the dishes and says, “Mom? Shouldn’t we throw this coffee mug away? It’s chipped.”
“I like the chip in it! It’s shaped like a heart! It’s a love mug!” I tell him. “Besides, that’s Karen & Lo’s mug, we can’t get rid of it.”
“Only you would see love in a chipped coffee mug,” he says with the authority of a first born child. “And… we’ve had this cup for how long? How does it still belong to someone else?”
“Because I like to think of it as theirs. It’s a piece of them in my kitchen and that matters to me.”
Cue the eye roll.
I still remember the morning 6 years ago when Karen placed this mug in my hand, a pre-requisite to the conversation I needed to have. In my mind, Karen’s apartment is always blindingly bright. Her windows faced West, our building perched on top of a Berkeley hill, so when I say West, I mean forever and ever West. Past the Golden Gate bridge West. Her apartment had the kind of natural light at 10am that made everything feel new. Dazzling, color draining light. I had woken up in the same clothes I had went out in. I still had Ocean Beach sand behind my ears and between my toes, my hair still smelled like bonfire, I rose from bed, crossed the carpeted hall in two steps to slip through Karen’s front door and announce, “I’m falling in love with someone I shouldn’t be.”
Karen and Katy, who lived one door over from Karen, was already there, coffee in hand. They paused, poured and we began. I left her apartment with this mug in my hand. I’ve had it ever since. I didn’t mean to keep it. I assumed it would make its way back to her kitchen. But then I moved across town. And then they moved across country. And Katy moved her family to a boat in the marina and now resides in France. We’re all on our own marvelous adventures. Raising our children apart but once upon a time, for a tender moment, we were raising them together.
And I still think of Karen’s children, and Katy’s children, most nights before I fall asleep. I think of them as little glowing seeds growing into vibrant shades of happy. I send them little bits of love from a far away person who wishes them nothing but the very best. I like to think that little bits of love over time stack up to a lot of love. My own accumulative effect theory of care.
The mug is chipped because I consistently use it. I have many mugs and I like them all. And still, I return to this mug over and over because each time I hold it in my hand, I’m holding a little bit of love from Karen. The chip being heart shaped just makes me love it a little bit more, since now I handle the mug with extra care. I wash it more gently than the others. I’m a little softer when I place it on the shelf. And I love that my kid knows I’m that sentimental. It’s good to be a known squish ball.