It is so lovely that so many of you have checked in on me because I've not posted in a few days. Thank you! All is well; I'm just busy busy. Two classes, volunteer stuff at school, a bridal shower I'm co-hosting coming soon so I'm cooking like crazy. And, my fifth grader told me that he "loves homework" so I'm recovering from a mild cardiac infarct.
What I really want to tell you about today, though, is a gift Tom and I received for our wedding, twelve years ago.
When my sister, Elia, was 4 she met a girl named Emily. They immediately became best friends and still are, more than three decades later. As it turns out, Emily's family is deeply wonderful, and the four of them became an extended family for four of us. And vice versa.
Weddings, new children, losses, retirement parties, relocations, Thanksgivings ("a pie a person plus more the next day" is our motto)...we've shared so many of each of those things together over the years, each experience cementing another star into the Hollywood boulevard of family memory.
Jim and Marjorie, Emily's parents are accomplished artists (sculpture, pottery, painting, wine-making), and for our wedding gift made Tom and me a set of five mugs. The glaze is an inviting bluish green -think celadon + seafoam- with a hint of red in spots near the mugs' rim. Each cup is unique but thematically on point.
For more than twelve years now, we have cherished these mugs. Tom's first gift to me, not eight months after meeting, was a superbly crafted espresso maker and coffee bean grinder, Silvia and Rocco.
"I hoped and thought we'd end up together so bought a present for both of us," he later told me. I lived in New York then, and Tom in DC. We were in NY a day after Christmas as we were set to fly to Italy to meet my sister and her then-boyfriend in Florence for New Year's.
My apartment was a 51%-of-my-income, fifth-floor-walk-up studio, but I loved it because it was all mine. I set the Silvia up on an old dining chair my parents bought when they were poor newlyweds. That chair served as a catch-all shelf next to my wine cabinet which was a metal thing with one glass shelf that I'd proudly bought from Crate & Barrel.
I plugged Rocco into a nearby outlet, and top-shelf coffee that I didn't need to go out for soon became my norm.
Once married, Tom and I moved Silvia and Rocco to Boston, Reston, VA, DC, and now MD. Each move has also found us carefully bubble-wrapping each Jim-and-Mawj mug, cherished treasures that we always move ourselves with our art and other beloved things. We'd never leave them with even the best movers. They are stars on our own Hollywood boulevard.
We've drunk wonderful joe, often with barista-quality latte art atop, for years now, both when apart and together. In the frenetic mornings that have characterized the time since Jack and then Oliver were born, mugs of coffee have served as our morning communion, a bit of pleasure and deep appreciation that we share even if only in passed cups and briefly locked eyes.
More often than not, Tom acts as barista while I make breakfast or sleep in. He passes me a mug with just the right proportion of coffee to milk, a gift of love, a tribute to and vial of strength for the day ahead.
When we travel, we explore by way of hopscotching from coffee shop to coffee shop. We've always done this and I imagine we'll never stop.
Ooh, that place is known for its proprietary roast, that one for its cortado, the next for its cold brew. In Rome we discovered Brassai on our first or second morning and proceeded to return every morning of our trip. We came to know the owner and one waitress, we saw what a place can mean to the regulars who haunt its eaves, we, for an ephemeral week, felt what it might be to be a regular and to partake in a communal tradition. The boys felt and understood it.
One of the common denominators of all this Life With Coffee is this set of mugs which have come along with us for the ride. For years I handwashed them, scared of and thus unwillingness to risk what might happen if I put them in an unfeeling dishwasher. Circumstances have changed, and although I loathe our present dishwasher, I entrust to it our treasured grails because I recognize that time is not the only fleeting commodity; so too are possessions, the things that seem crucial but ultimately probably aren't.
That said, the mugs Jim and Marjorie made remain in perfect condition. Not a one has been lost or broken. Not a one suffers even a chip. They are pristine and sit proudly and usefully in their fourth kitchen cabinet, the one under which Silvia and Rocco are tucked, our dutiful morning soldiers who make the early day possible and lovely.
When marriage feels tough, as it is sometimes wont to do, I look at those unmarred yet well-worn mugs, and I am hopeful. Things crafted from work and love tend to stand strong against the tests of time. For these precious totems I am thankful.