The mug was made for coffee. Cheap white pottery. The surface glazed but slightly irregular – lumpy even.
Clearly not a top-of-the-line mug made for a Hallmark sort of occasion. Rather, it looks homemade.
The text appears to have been printed with a fat magic marker. No flowing script, no Garfield the Cat cartoon, no mass market appeal.
Just “I Love You” in red block letters on a slightly spotty white mug. As if perhaps created by a fairly talented third grader. But no better. It’s the kind of thing you would never set out on holidays, for company, or when you wanted to impress.
Each morning, since early in our relationship, either my husband or I being the first to pour the omnipotent first coffee of the day, would present the other with the mug.
It was a small sentiment, without flourish or acknowledgment. A permanent love note sent without rigmarole or fanfare. Because who, after all, can stomach fanfare before coffee?
And the first one to pour the next day would fill the mug for the other and repay the sentiment in kind. One mug, two people – it worked.
To have one’s own “I Love You” mug would have been sacrilege. The sharing was key.
As was, after a fact, the very tackiness of the mug itself. A newer, flashier, prettier and splashier mug would have missed the point entirely.
Tradition. In the early days it was almost nauseatingly romantic: “Here, for you, I love you.”
Like any newly declared love, the emotion was splashy and raw, puppyish and not quite dry on the page yet. “Look at me! I’m allowed to say ‘love’ and ‘you’ all in the same sentence!”
Then time rolls on and the bloom of new love gives way to the comfort of longevity. “Well of course I want to marry you! What took you so long?!”
Then on to married life: “Well you better love me, we have two children and three mortgages together!”
And yet, through it all – the sleepless nights, the teething babies, hot water heaters that went bust, car repairs, leaky roofs, business travel, taxes, and flotsam and jetsam of daily life – we held the ritual.
The low-key affirmation of the “I Love You” mug. “No matter how crazy life might get, I’m still here for you.”
And sometimes “Okay, I was wrong, but I’d rather chew toenails than admit it so I’ll just push this mug across the table and maybe you’ll smile and we’ll forget about it?…”
Cracks. After a decade of daily use, the “I Love You” mug shows serious wear.
Cracks have appeared. A rather large one at the hands of one of the children – and isn’t that just how it always is? Kids’ll do that to a marriage, er, I mean a mug, every time.
Yet, in the face of daily living evidenced in irreparable wear, the nearly minuscule ritual became so much more.
The habit of the mug represents a belief. A belief that tomorrow, and the next day, and the days to follow, the one you love will love you back and, more importantly, continue to show up each and every morning. Without fail. Without regard to imperfections, stresses, and flaws. Continuity. Caring. Commitment. It’s quite a mouthful for one mug.
Wineglasses are for weddings but mugs? They’re for marriage.
In staying the course, the tradition, and the continual commitment to being there day in and day out, a simple little 6-ounce container can, and does, speak volumes.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt wishes cupfuls of kindness for all. She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)