Mug the First.April 14, 2010
In the past ten years, I’ve lived in seven cities across four American states and three separate countries. I think the number of physical dwellings – houses, condos, apartments – totals twelve. Unsurprisingly, I have lost an absurd amount of my possessions in that time.
I gave up some of those items willingly. While on a trip to Hawaii, I wore a t-shirt that was a lovely pale blue and was splashed with a couple dozen translations of the word, “Peace.” This was 2003. Not that peace ever goes out of style, but you can imagine how important the word was to me a mere two months after we had invaded Iraq. A girl I met while in Hawaii expressed her appreciation of the shirt, so I gave it to her.
Regretted that the second I left the island, but I figured that it was just one more thing I could do to spread peace as best as I could.
Speaking of regrets though, my biggest one by far is giving up Miette. She was my cat that I rehomed when moving to the UK in 2008. We had decided to move our dogs the whole way, but when we did research about moving our animals to a new country, the expense and difficulties seemed so insurmountable that we decided to leave the cats behind. I left Raiju with a former co-worker of mine who was the best animal person I had ever met, so I have never felt guilt over that decision. Not for a second.
But Miette was a different case. She was loveable, but my God, was she shy. So scared of change. I found her a home, but it wasn’t the home she had known for the previous three years. It was with a stranger, and I have no way of knowing how that pairing has turned out. It’s been two years, and I still think about her often and about how many years of her life that she has left and how I wasn’t, and won’t be, there for her.
Sometimes I think that my decision to give up Miette and the guilt that followed was what finally led me, a full 15 years after I first had the impulse, to become vegetarian, and then vegan.
It’s ridiculous to think I could ever make up for abandoning a cat who was actually mine, but I’m going to do all I can to never cause suffering to another animal again.
I can also promise you that the second we settle down in the US, I’ll be adopting another cat (or two), and I will NOT be giving them up. I couldn’t live with myself if I did it a second time.
I miss Miette.
A distant second to the worst loss that was Miette was one that I didn’t actually do on purpose. It was my own fault, but it wasn’t intentional. I lost the box of Christmas ornaments that I had been collecting since childhood. I made some of those ornaments in elementary school. My parents gave me some of those ornaments throughout my life, one rocking horse every Christmas, starting in 1980, the year I was born. And finally, there were ornaments in that box that I had purchased myself, on my trips around the world.
I realized I had lost the box forever while on one of those trips. I was in Germany, and we had time to kill before catching a ferry back to our hotel. We decided to window shop in one of the gift shops near the landing, and I saw an ornament that I thought might be cute to add to my collection. As I called my husband over to look at it, I realized that two weeks before, when we had moved out of our most recent house, I had saved the hall closet (that housed the ornaments) for last, and I never went back to it.
My stomach sank in that souvenir shop. I walked outside and sat on the bank of the Rhine river and cried.
That box had been the only item that I had kept with me from my childhood. It symbolized a different time. A before.
Before my parents divorced. Before they sold the house I thought would be ours forever. Before they packed up everything inside, split it in half, and put some of it in storage. I had received the box of ornaments labeled “Melissa” in the mail when I was 24 years old and was celebrating my first Christmas with my husband.
And now I was 27, and all of those ornaments were gone.
I emailed my previous landlord to see if she had found the box and saved it, but she hadn’t touched the place. She had just hired professional cleaners to prepare the house for the next family, and anything they found, they tossed.
I’ve bought a couple of ornaments since then, but I’m having trouble getting excited about them. None of them can replace what was there before. I haven’t put up a Christmas tree since 2006 anyway. It doesn’t feel that much like Christmas when you’re thousands of miles away from family.
We did make this decision to be transient. We’re curious about the world, we both always have been, and there’s something to be said for setting up shop in another country instead of merely visiting it.
So we haven’t really been setting down roots anywhere for some time now. Every purchase we make feels like something else we’ll just have to get rid of when we move next.
But in my time here, I’ve started a new collection. It started off innocently enough. The best ones always do.
You might’ve guessed from the title of this post that my collection is of mugs. I have bought them in London, Paris, Dublin, and Prague. The only one I don’t love is Dublin’s, and that’s because it’s a travel mug. So it’s useful, but it certainly isn’t pretty. (Just kidding, Dublin Mug. You’re pretty, too. For a travel mug.)
I thought I’d share my mug collection though. I bought this one while my dad was visiting me in London. From the British Museum shop. There were several on offer, with the different alphabets on the world to choose from. Part of me felt silly choosing the Latin alphabet because where’s the adventure in that, but I just liked the way it looked. No offense to Arabic and Cyrillic intended.
Besides, I like words. They’re my thing even more than mugs. Or ornaments. And my words are made up of the Latin alphabet. So I figured it fit well enough.
Now I just have to figure out how to get my mugs home once we head that way. They’re all breakable, you know. (Except for Dublin. It’s built for traveling!) The breakability factor was why I saved that hall closet for last, and we all know how that turned out.
That’s my mug actually being used for tea. It’s the perfect tea mug really.
And don’t you just love the letters? I definitely think Latin was the right choice.