My mug has kept me company for almost a decade, gifted towards the end of a friendship that would inevitably decant, leaving only the gritty sediment swirling in the bottom, hard to digest. It’s a memento of the surreal; a whirlwind romance, a move across oceans, an incapacitating illness and a slow recovery as everything else fell apart. It’s a reminder of simple kindnesses, of which there were many, in a place without the familiar, a talisman from another life.
It’s been half empty and half full. It’s caught tears and echoed laughter. I’ve cradled it delicately and been tempted to hurl it at various things, even a few people. . . It’s seen me stripped bare; contorted by rejection and rage, wallowing in self pity. It’s been by my side as I’ve learned and evolved... matured.
It’s a mug I’d never have picked; the crockery is too thin, the pattern too old. It’s too refined for my raw edges; too British for my Antipodean routes. Inexplicably, I like it. But I treasure it because she gave it to me, one Christmas. Alexander McCall Smith taught me later that Spode could fuel an argument and feed a story, as I sat alone in an Edinburgh flat with my steaming mug in hand. You Brits sure do put a lot of heat into tea. Time has carved out many lines on us both; the handle now too cracked to house any hot liquids. And still it remains, home to a family of toothbrushes. It’s neglected and toothpaste splodged but never unloved.
As I write this, the mug shatters, as if guided by a force bigger than the tiny hands which clambered up and tried to ‘borrow’ it from the shelf. “It don’t matter, Mummy,” my toddler comforts me. And while my heart aches as I collect up all the pieces, I know he’s right. It is just a mug. I treasure it not for the pattern or the pottery.
I treasure it as a waymarker to memories. And they will come to me without this prop. All these things it held still exist, true memories are imbibed. The broken pieces bring a freedom to choose new possibilities, to make my own happiness. Maybe I’ll finally take that mosaic course I’ve wanted to do for years. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll get in touch with the lady with the cracking smile and infectious laugh that once upon a time gifted me my beloved Spode mug.
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