In the publications room at my high school stood a supply cabinet full of stuff. It contained your standard office supplies: pens, pencils, staples, paper clips, folders, and various odds and ends. We kept our packed lunches in there since none of us ever ate in the cafeteria, and our advisor and the senior girls stashed their purses in it. Over the years, it became a catch-all for anything that didn’t have a place. My senior year as co-editor of our school’s newsmagazine, The Colonel, I took it upon myself to (finally) clean out this closet. I organized the supplies, threw out long-forgotten food, and came up with some really bizarre finds. However, I did make a discovery that, in its own small way, changed my life: a mug with “cows from around the world” on it. It was love at first sight.
The mug had dried coffee and dead bugs in it, but that didn’t stop it from immediately becoming my favorite mug. The mug has four cows on it representing different countries: France, Japan, Poland, and West Germany. The French cow is saying, “Mooí.” The Japanese cow says, “Moo-san.” The Polish cow’s bubble reads, “Moöski,” and the West German cow’s says, “Mü.” The West German cow is my favorite: the umlaut, the imprint of the Cold War. It’s a little cup with history. I’ve carried this mug with me from home to college to grad school to New York City and back to Ohio. I use it every day.
So, on a recent morning as I’m having my coffee, my dad says, “Oh, look, you’ve got your Nana’s cow mug.”
“What? This isn’t her mug. I found it in The Colonel supply closet.”
“That’s your Nana’s mug.”
“What are you talking about? I distinctly remember finding this when I cleaned out the supply closet my senior year. It’s so funny and weird. It’s been my favorite mug since.”
My dad looked at the mug for a minute. Then he said, “Your Nana had that exact mug. I clearly remember cleaning out the kitchen after she died and taking the mug with me. I was teaching at the high school at the time, and I used to take my own mugs to school. That one got lost.”
My dad’s memory is freakishly good, so I’m not one to question it. “You’re saying that you took this mug with you to school sometime after 1988 and lost it. Then 10 years later, I find it when I’m cleaning out the supply closet, fall in love with it, and bring it home?”
“Is sense of humor is genetic?”
I like to think that we’re all connected somehow. I like to think that certain things can find their way back to us because of an energy they hold from us, or from someone else. I like to think that when I picked up this mug so long ago and felt whatever connection I felt to it, that my grandmother felt the same thing when she picked it up for the first time. It gives me a sense of wonder and comfort.
The mug is definitely showing signs of wear. The handle broke off about a year ago. Brian was able to quell my panic by super-gluing it back on for me. The Japanese cow used to have a yellow background that has since faded to white after too many times through the dishwasher. I only hand-wash it now. I’ve debated trying to find an identical mug on eBay in the event that one day it smashes into a thousand pieces. I’m not sure it would really be the same, if you know what I mean. But if I loved the mug before, I love it even more knowing that my Nana loved it once, too.