Memorable and Not-So-Memorable Mugs

Mugs. Lots of mugs. Fifty of them, more or less. Many of them mementos of our travels over the years. The first time we hung this enormous mug rack (the photo captures only a tiny piece of it) was when we lived in Arlington, Texas, between 1990 and 1997. I don’t recall whether we hung it while we lived in Dallas; I don’t think so. But we finally hung it in our house in Hot Springs Village, thanks to my niece and her husband, without whose help the mugs would remain in moving boxes.

The only wall in the house that is suitable to the mug rack is in the guest bedroom that doubles as my office. (There’s a long, tedious explanation as to why the “sky room” next to the master bedroom does not fill that role; I’ll not dwell on that here.) So, any overnight guests who visit now have the pleasure of viewing our many mugs. Several of the mugs are from my unicorn-collecting phase, a long-since abandoned endeavor. When I first started collecting unicorns, unicorn figures and figurines (and mugs) were rare; today, they are as common as toilet paper. As we continue collecting mugs from travels near and far, we’ll replace the unicorn mugs with more memorable stuff. And we may eventually replace the mass-produced mugs in favor of one-of-a-kind, hand-made works of art (or even just works of craft).

The concept of collecting for the sake of collecting occupies opposing places in my brain. On the one hand, the mementos give me pleasure; on the other, they represent mindless, conspicuous consumption. I view our mug collection as an early symptom of hording behavior. I’ll admit that I’ve not given any thought to it until just now, but I suspect the psychology of collecting and hording both relate in some fashion to an unhealthy attachment to “things” that represent an experience with some form of anguish in one’s past. Probably a childhood trauma indelibly etched in brain tissue.

In the case of our mugs, I wonder whether the decision to collect them involves an effort to reduce the likelihood that we will forget the experiences that led us to purchase them? That is, if we have a mug from Barcelona, will our memories of the brief visit there so many years ago retain their brightness, as if the experience was recent? The answer to that, incidentally, is “no.” I remember seeing La Sagrada Familia and I have vague recollections of seeing Gaudí buildings; maybe a visit to a famous artist’s home, but not much else.  I have never been very good at taking photographs while traveling. I would rather experience the sights and sounds of a place through my own eyes than through a lens. But that preference allows images to fade much faster than those one captures with a camera. So, I sometimes regret not taking pictures. I used to think mugs were stand-ins for photos; no more. Now, I think old-fashioned picture postcards might be the way to go. Forget the photos until you’ve seen things you’d like to have photographed. Then, find a picture postcard rack and buy cards that reflect the places you’ve seen. Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that? Somebody could make a killing out of selling postcards. And they probably will.

But we’re here to talk about mugs, aren’t we? Indeed. So I shall. One day, if the mood strikes me at just the right time, I will photograph each mug on our rack and will record (to the extent memory allows) where we got it and what I recall of the place. Assuming each mug will require at least sixty minutes of viewing, recalling, photographing, and writing, I have around 50 hours of work to do before I realize it’s a pointless exercise. Actually, I suspect I’ll catch on much sooner than 50 hours in; perhaps 15 minutes, instead.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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