Why I collect coffee mugs

From the time I turned 14 to this very day, I’ve always been a caffeine fiend. I can function without coffee, but it does make my day to day activities significantly less enjoyable. At any given moment, there is some sort of container with a Sharpie written (and often understandably misspelled) version of my name clutched in my right hand. Due to my lavish latte lifestyle, coffee has served as the one constant prop in my life’s movie. (It’s essentially my derivative of the pineapple from Psych without its own cult following. But I digress). I think every momentous occasion from the past decade has either provided the preface or epilogue to my next sip of brew. That’s why I made the conscious decision a few years ago to start collecting eccentric coffee mugs.

The holidays have always been a huge deal in my family. Each year, we root for Max and company to defeat the Sanderson sisters, chuckle at the Peanuts gang’s Thanksgiving smorgasbord, and empathize with Ralphie’s pain of having to wear the dreaded “Pink Nightmare.” In addition to absorbing the love of these classics, I inherited my mom’s love of decorating, including festive mugs. This is where my obsession began. I would scout for the cutest and most unique holiday mugs alongside her at the thrift store. Our cabinets were always overrun with snowman roasting marshmallows and black cats arching their backs next to broomsticks. Part of me thinks I starting drinking coffee so as to not feel left out among the adults (I’m the youngest in my family) with my apple juice laden mug.

Once I moved out to start college, my mother bestowed me the honor of taking some of her precious holiday mugs to Austin, beginning with the “Spooky” ghost mug followed by the elongated mug complete with every single reindeer, including Rudolph. (Part of me thinks this was her maternal tactic of making sure I’d come home regularly to visit, but she shouldn’t have worried). Slowly but surely, I began building up my own collection. Every holiday, my friends and residents got excited to watch the full grandiose and immersive experience of me decorating (usually complete with a carefully crafted playlist to set the scene). For the grand finale, I would gingerly place my beloved holiday mugs on my desk, signaling it was only a matter of time before all of the holiday festivities commenced. Our nostalgia brought us all together as we reminisced about the traditions prominent in our own families and actually started some for ourselves, complete with mugs in hand.

After I began my stride (aka face plant) into adulthood, the holidays became more meaningful, making my mug collection more plentiful. I now tend to head straight for the dishware section of any thrift store. I don’t buy every mug I find but rather those I feel some sort of connection to, whether it be some distant childhood memory or if it looks like the previous owner once had the same attachment I find myself experiencing. I imagine my predecessor surrounded by friends as their laughter rises with the steam of their fresh homemade Cappuccino or letting their salty tears seep into their fourth cup of Joe. I don’t see it as me purchasing something someone haphazardly discarded but as buying something someone decided to pass on, knowing another needed it more.

As someone whose life revolves around coffee, I have to assume theirs once did as well. Maybe they were finally able to kick the caffeine habit, or maybe they did just saw it as a piece of junk. Either way, I collect coffee mugs because each has a different memory and mood attached, so I hope my life continues to be unpredictable to keep up the mystery of which coffee mug I’ll use each day, as well as continuing to provide me with enough money to keep buying the shelving units needed to store them.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]