Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saturday Musings, 28 June 2014

Good morning,

My technology tries to betray me; the keyboard refuses to cooperate with the browser, the windows randomly open.  I squint, tap, peer at the tablet's surface and wonder:  Should I go back to pen and paper?  I smile and lift the "Owl Cafe" mug which my neighbor abandoned on his back deck when he and his wife and baby daughter moved to bigger digs.  I keep meaning to return it, but it's so nice, you know?

I contemplate why the shape of a mug's handle changes the entire experience of enjoying coffee.  Unquestionably, it does, at least for me.  When guests come, I ask them, "What type of mug do you want?"  They come and stand before the cabinet and survey the options.  Even those who have demurred find one they prefer.  I smile and pour; I understand.

I started drinking coffee in earnest when I worked as a unit secretary at St. Vincent's Psychiatric Hospital in St. Louis, but my earliest memories date back to age three or four.  My mother would pour a little coffee into her saucer and  let me slurp the warm liquid.  I don't recall when she switched from Melamine cups and saucers to ceramic mugs but I do remember regretting the loss of that ritual.

My cupboard holds an odd collection.  The Harvard mug my stepson brought me after his summer studying at Harvard between his third and fourth year of high school rests beside the commemorative mug from DePauw University that I'm holding hostage until my son replaces it with one just for me.  He got it working a function, his senior year in college.  I found it when I cleaned his car for him and consider it fair bounty.  The blue fired mug from Trudy holds a special place, as do the mugs from Taos and the two finely thrown vessels with thin round handles from my stepdaughter and her fiancee.  I can wander through the shelf and tell you the origins of everything.

I used to have two mugs which had belonged to my brother:  One dark green with a thumb rest built into the handle, which I used for pens and pencils; and the other navy blue, with the name of the last hospital at which he worked embossed in stark white letters.  I never drank from either of them; I feared breaking items which my brother had held.  Last year, I gave each of his daughters one of those.  I don't miss them; I'm happy knowing where they now reside.

I have a separate lot of cups for drinking tea.  I don't like to intermingle the lingering flavors which never quite succumb to washing, especially since I won't use soap for my coffee and tea mugs.  Tea requires a more sensual container -- thinner, lighter, easier to hold.  I drink hot tea at times of stress; days when work or life overwhelms me.  I brew Earl Grey in an earthen pot from loose leaves and steep it for four or five minutes.  It turns out strong and fragrant, the smell of Bergamot rising from the cup.  I sit on the porch and let its scent waft around me and mingle with the coolness of the morning air.

On the shelf in my breakfast nook with my china soup cup collection, I have one tea cup, no saucer, which belonged to my great-grandmother.  It has two dainty black stripes around its rim, between which the maker painted small rose buds and delicate swirls.  My mother gave it to me and said it had been Mom Ulz's cup.  I took her word for this, just as I did everything.  It matches a bowl that also came to me in just that way, from mother to daughter to granddaughter.  I don't use this cup; it gathers dust.

When I find myself most tired, I gravitate towards a smaller cup, which my clumsy hands can grip.  Instead of raising the mug by the handle, I wrap both hands around its body and drink full and long, letting the warm liquid fill me.

I despise Styrofoam.  Nothing good can come in it.  Paper cups rank only slightly higher.  Disposable drinking vessels suffice for coffee purchased simply for the caffeine, for the fix, for the boost.  When I spend three dollars for a beverage, I want the tall mug on the high shelf, the one many baristas grumble about using.  They can't write your name on it; they have to look at the desperate gaggle of waiting customers and figure out which one ordered the Americano for here, three shots, no room for cream needed.

I'm going to brew a fresh pot of coffee and take a full mug out onto the porch, in the sweet morning air, the soft light of the hour after dawn.  The newspaper will soon arrive.  I'll sip my coffee and contemplate the tasks which await me, and then, when that contemplation threatens to rock my composure, I'll pour another cup, sit back down, and ease myself slowly into the rest of the day.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.