My friend Nina gave them to us as a wedding present: two mugs that were made in Cameroon, a country that’s been called Africa’s “throbbing heart.” Apparently the clay there is of high quality, ideal for making pottery.
Nina gave the mugs to me this summer when I was back in Iowa. I simultaneously loved them and worried about them: How would I get them safely back to our home in North Carolina? Wrapped in bubble wrap and assorted clothing, they survived the flight and have been sitting on a cabinet ever since.
I love these mugs. I love them so much I haven’t wanted to use them. I love them because Nina gave them to us. I love them because they’re so unusual.
They’re big mugs, the kind that take two hands to hold. While the handles and belly of the mug are perfect, the rims are anything but. They look like the potter was closing in on a perfect mug and then pushed too hard, causing the side of one to cave in a bit; the top of the other to be wavy.
I love that the potter didn’t keep working these imperfect mugs into perfect ones, that he or she saw the beauty in their imperfection.
Last night I got word that one of my dearest friends from high school is closing in on death. Today, her doctors and family will honor her wishes and take her off the ventilator she’s been on for days. I spent the night crying and reading Facebook posts from her family and friends, all of us grappling with the news that this feisty, full-of-life woman would somehow die.
While I sat in front of my computer, consumed with grief, my wife showed up at my office door, cupping one of our wedding mugs, filled to the brim with homemade chicken soup.
While my wife knew we hadn’t been using the mugs, she didn’t know I had been consciously not using them. She just followed a nudge to fill them up.
I ate the soup and followed it up with a big piece of chocolate.