Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.
In 1968 I walked into a gift shop in Dinkytown that sold Danish modern products. There I bought a handsome coffee mug made by the Finnish ceramics firm of Arabia.
I soon decided the Arabia mug was the only perfect object I owned. It was just the right color, the color of coffee. Its size was ideal for me, holding a generous amount of coffee. The design was classic. Because the bottom was larger than the top, the mug was stable and didn’t spill coffee when I walked with it.
Although I don’t value “things” nearly as much as I value relationships or values, the Arabia mug became a thing with a special claim on my heart. It was a joy to start every day in the company of something perfect, or at least as perfect as anything we are likely to touch in this world.
In the 1970s we hosted a small party at our Saint Paul home. Looking across the living room I spotted a guest drinking from my Arabia mug. I felt an absurd twinge of jealousy, the same feeling I’d had when I walked into the student union and saw my college girlfriend dancing with another guy. After that party I quietly hid the Arabia mug whenever we had guests. Some things you just don’t share.
I knew the mug was doomed. I used it every day and it went wherever I went. When you handle something that fragile that often, it’s just a matter of time until the worst happens. That time came in 1983. My six-year-old daughter bumped a wobbly table, knocking the mug to the floor. It shattered. I concealed my grief from her.
I tried to replace it. Haunting antique stores taught me that objects popular in 1968 can be hard to locate decades later. But that’s why God gave us the internet, right? Two or three times a year I would spend a few hours running Google searches for the Arabia mug or something very similar. All those searches were futile. Years passed, and then decades. I made do with other mugs, but every day I missed my old coffee-colored mug.
All that searching did turn up some delightful mugs. My favorite was a handmade teal mug that I found at a curated craft show at nearby St. Catherine’s College. And I loved a mug from San Francisco decorated by ten cheerful bears having an orgy.
Then, last year I was thrilled to spot my old mug on eBay. I learned that Arabia called it their “beehive” model. Alas, the photo was linked to a shop that had sold the only copy they had. I’d come so close! By that time I had been pursuing a replacement beehive Arabia mug for thirty-two years. I’d spent many hundreds of hours running internet searches.
Last Sunday I tried again. In Phoenix there is a little antique shop called In Old Things We Trust. Its owner, Teena, has a great eye. She had one Arabia beehive mug. I ordered it as fast as arthritic fingers could type. And now, in spite of many losses in life, in this one special sense my world is complete again.
Do you own—or have you ever lost—anything that seems perfect?