Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Few of my Favorite Things: Part One

The Susie Mug

Not long after the outlet mall at Albertville, Minnesota opened, my mom and I spent a day shopping there. We stopped for lunch in a cute little café and I was charmed by the mugs they used to serve their coffee. Their rounded bases, sturdy handles and simple leaf pattern in periwinkle blue struck me as warm and comfortable, at once practical and pretty. Mine felt good in my hand, and when I cupped my palms around the base, as I often do to keep warm during the long Minnesota winters, it felt as if molded to fit, as if it had been designed with those cold winters in mind. When my coffee was gone, I turned the mug over. Pfaltzgraff. And, lucky me!, there was a Pfaltzgraff outlet not three doors down the way.

In the time it took to finish lunch and make our way down the strip to the dishware outlet, I first convinced myself that I needed a set of four of these mugs and then talked myself out of getting any. This was pretty typical of me. I reasoned that it would just be an impulse buy, after all. The last thing I needed in my house was another coffee cup. I mean, sure, they were pretty, but they didn’t even match the kitchen. And at six bucks a pop, a set of four seemed a little extravagant. By the time I was holding one in my hand again, this one cool and unused, I was resigned to leaving the shop empty-handed.

Some time later, and having absolutely no sense of time, I can’t tell you if it was months or years, I flew to Maryland to visit my best friend, Susan. The first morning I was there, as we were preparing breakfast, Sue reached up into her cabinet and pulled out a mug for me. I nearly squealed when I saw it for, of course, it was one of those Pfaltzgraff mugs I had so admired back in Minnesota! I excitedly told her the story of how I’d seen them and flipped over them and she just sort of grinned and shrugged. “It’s a coffee mug, Bek,” she seemed to say.

We had a fantastic time, road-tripping to Pennsylvania Dutch country and Colonial Williamsburg. We milked cows and spent a day at Busch Gardens. We talked and laughed and just enjoyed being friends. It was so hard to go home, but all good things must come to an end, and we cried at the airport saying goodbye.

I arrived home and slipped into routine. Eiledon was around one at the time, so it was back to being a mom, a wife, an employee, an active church member. My best friend was a thousand miles away with her own husband, job and community. That’s just how life is.

A few weeks after my trip, a package came in the mail—maybe it was my birthday (again with that no-sense-of-time thing). Tucked inside was the mug. I could have cried. Because it wasn’t just a pretty ceramic dish I’d fallen in love with at some random café at an outlet mall anymore. Susan’s generosity had transformed it into a symbol of a lifelong friendship far more beautiful and valuable than the clay and glaze it was made of. And the love and memories it contained were richer and more delicious than the best coffee in the world.

I use it every morning.