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Retrieved mug has stories to tell

We were running late, and my mind was wandering.

I had backed out of the garage and driven about half a mile when I heard a "thud" and saw an odd movement out the corner of my eye.

I didn’t realize what was happening until the coffee started running down the passenger-side window.

I closed my eyes and shook my head. I probably should have taken my mug off the top of the car.

It was a "gimme" mug that had come from a farm group or an implement company; it had red soybean wagon on the side and a snap-on, no-spill top that was… I had learned through experience… very capable of spilling.


But it kept coffee piping hot, it held about half a gallon and it fit my hand just right.

Sentimental journey

I pulled to the side of the road and walked back along the shoulder to retrieve the cup, and mentally kicked myself when I saw that the outer shell had cracked and a chunk the size of a silver dollar was missing from the side.

The no-spill top was gone completely.

I jumped back into the car and slammed the door.

"What’s wrong?" Steven asked from the back seat.

"I broke my cup," I said. "It was my favorite."

A mile down the road I added, "I’m just going to have to throw it away."


I thought about the coffee mugs in the kitchen cabinet: a Thomas Kincaid cottage, a dancing snowman, the MPR logo.

One of them would have to become my new favorite.

A mile and a half down the road, Steven started to cry, and it was my turn to ask, "What’s wrong."

"I don’t want you to throw your cup away." he said. "It’s my favorite, too."

I was fairly certain that if I asked him to describe my mug, he couldn’t do it, but kids can get sentimental about some surprising things.

Grown ups can, too.

"It’s broken," I explained. "The side is cracked, and I lost the top."

He cried harder, and before I dropped him off at school, he made me promise that I wouldn’t throw my mug away.


A promise is a promise.

Rescue effort

On the way back home, I stopped at the spot where my mug had tumbled from the top of the car.

In a driving rain, I spent 10 minutes walking through the ditch, collecting bits and pieces of the broken plastic.

I found the top floating in a puddle, and stepped in freezing water up to my ankle to fish it out.

I held the cup up to my eye like a telescope and aimed it at the sky.

I couldn’t see any light. The cup might still be usable.

I drove home and arranged the plastic fragments on the side of the cup like a jigsaw puzzle, first gluing them into place, then securing them with wide pieces of tape.


It would never pass a health department inspection, but it looked like the same old mug. Kind of.

Steven smiled widely when he got home from school that afternoon and saw the mug in its usual place on the kitchen counter.

"You didn’t throw it out," he said.

"I promised," I said.

As close as I can tell, that was about 6,000 gallons of coffee ago.

Some of the plastic fragments have since fallen off, and I haven’t bothered to replace them. The red soybean wagon was washed off long ago.

It still keeps the coffee hot, and it’s got some character.

I think I’ll hang on to it.


Besides, a promise is a promise.

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