Why We Have So Many Cups

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Back when I first moved to New York, and long before Frank and I met, I lived in a tiny little studio apartment in Brooklyn. It was called a “garden view” apartment, which all sounded very romantic … although in typical New York fashion, its name bore no relationship whatsoever to its proximity to a garden.

The apartment was actually a “street view” apartment, and it had one and only window, which looked out to the traffic, sidewalk, and buildings beyond. As far as habitability is concerned, it was a shabby little place with no heat and a dorm-sized fridge. But I loved my little apartment, and I would often sit in my living room/bedroom with a cup of coffee in hand, and watch the people as they passed by. I remember thinking very clearly, back then, that I had finally arrived.

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(That little window under the tree, to the right of the stairs, was mine)

In those days, I owned exactly four cups: three mugs I had purchased from the dollar store around the corner, and one “I Love NY” mug that I held onto for sentimental reasons. Looking back on it now, having four mugs was very ambitious, given that my apartment only sat two people. But I fully intended on having a huge party there someday, as soon as I fixed the place up.

As it turns out, I never did either.

Eight years and three apartments later, I live with more cups than I can shake a stick at. Many of these cups are cups that Frank has collected in his travels—cups from friends, colleagues, and other artists whose work he admires. Other cups have sentimental value for me. Like these, for instance:

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These are two mugs that were made by Frank, and they are the last of their kind. He gave them to me as a gift shortly after we met, after he surveyed my kitchen (different kitchen, same size as the first one) and realized that I owned exactly two mugs, both of them from Target.

And then there’s this mug:

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This is a mug we got the last time we were in Vermont, made by potter Jeremy Ayers.  He was throwing pots in the park, and I remember it was one of those sunny, crisp, vibrant Vermont autumn days where everything is green and orange and blue, and the pattern on this mug struck me as being so pretty.  This is also the first mug we bought together after we married.

Other mugs provide a constant source of amusement, such as the “ugly mug” (I’m not going to say which one) that Frank loves, but I can only describe as looking “busted.”  Then there are the cups without handles, which are perfect for tea, but which I have to carry around with potholders.  And some mugs are just beautiful and a pleasure to use.  See that one on the bottom left that looks like an upholstered couch?  I love that mug, and always use it for bedtime tea because it feels so cozy.  And the one right in front of that with the handle facing out?  You can’t see it, but that mug is huge, and is perfect for cocoa.  Lots of cocoa.

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Each of these mugs is connected with an artist, an experience, or a memory, and each is unique in its own way.  These mugs each mark a place in time, and whenever I open the cupboard and see all the cups, I feel a sense of abundance that’s difficult to explain.  It’s a funny way of measuring abundance, this cupboard full of cups, but it speaks to a life filled with the people and places and experiences that all add to the richness of life over time, year by year and cup by cup.

And I have to say: sometimes when I sit on the couch with a cup of tea in hand, I look out the window to the street and sidewalk and buildings beyond, and I can’t help but feel, in those moments, that I have finally arrived.