SGLY: Within arm's reach
Seven Christmases ago I participated in a gift exchange party. Drawing the number one, I was the first to select from a grouping of wrapped presents. Family and friends gave an approving nod when I revealed four artisan pottery mugs.
“Perfect gift for you, Tiffany!” someone exclaimed.
“I hope all the gifts are this tailor-made,” another chimed in.
You do not have to be around me long to observe that I have a coffee and hot tea addiction. I find comfort and calm in the warmth of a strong, black cup of coffee or a rich, earthy cup of green tea with jasmine — nothing extravagant, simply soothing. These are just small ways that I give myself a little consideration and kindness throughout the day.
Unbeknownst to my family and friends, however, I did not care for the mugs. I appreciated the artistry, but the size was too big, and the colors did not draw my attention. Not only were the mugs large for my liking, but they were also thin at the rim; I knew I would have to be extra careful or they would break.
One broke on the car ride home from the party. Not sure how it happened, but the result left me with three mugs and an awareness that I would have to handwash them. With every use and handwashing, I became tired of their awkward size and the extra effort. Eventually, I put the three mugs on the highest shelf in the cabinet so they would not be used. However, one person in my household thought differently.
My daughter loved the eccentric mugs. Throughout the past seven years she managed to rotate the three mugs for almost every cup of hot cocoa and mug cake. As her tastes grew with age, she eventually shared my liking for coffee and tea. However, we did not share the affection for the cups, especially since I was usually the one left to hand-wash them. Regardless, no matter how out of the way I put the mugs, my daughter always found them.
This past year I became an empty nester when my daughter left for college. The mugs gathered dust until her first visit home. I must have been in bed when she sneaked downstairs during the night and made herself a cup of hot cocoa. I only know this because when I awakened and went into the kitchen to pour myself a cup of coffee, one of the off-limits pottery mugs was in the sink. The bottom of the mug was darkened with chocolate.
Instead of rolling my eyes, I stared at the mug: the mug I never liked until this very moment. Rather than settle into the day with a cup of coffee, I turned on the facet and ran my fingertips under the stream until the water turned hot.
Above the sound of the running water, I could hear music playing upstairs. I missed hearing music coming from my daughter’s room. I knew she was probably packing, getting ready to return to campus. I picked up the mug and soaped it up, gently letting the chocolate pour from the bottom and down the drain. I smiled as I cleaned the thin rim, amazed that this delicate cup had lasted this long. Oddly enough, between the mug and me, it was I who felt most fragile at this moment.
Rinsing the mug, I turned at the sound of my daughter’s voice.
“Thanks for washing that,” she said.
It took me a moment to comprehend what she said to me as I was too busy soaking in this young woman before me. Is this the same girl who was making mug cakes not too long ago? Has that much time passed? Looking at the beauty before me, I knew time had passed, and I was so very, very thankful for every minute.
“My pleasure,” I said, putting the mug on the drying pad. I had to laugh at myself, at the irony of taking pleasure in something that I had routinely complained about to myself. Yet, I knew my reply was sincere. It truly was my pleasure.
After my daughter left, I returned to the kitchen. This time instead of returning the pottery mug to the highest shelf, I used it for my first cup of coffee. Knowing my daughter’s love for this mug brought me more comfort and calm than what was inside. I think I will keep it on the shelf within arm’s reach. In a small and maybe silly manner, it is a way in which I can keep my daughter close even in her absence.
Sometimes life reveals its beauty and complexity in the most eccentric and simple of ways.
SGLY, dear reader.
(Smile, God Loves You.)
Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier; Instagram:@tiffanysgly; and Twitter: @tiffanychartier. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.