Back in the day, maybe fifteen years ago, my elder brother and I wandered into what was, in his view, the height of coffee culinary cuisine. There was something about the coffee that was served there which he adored. Javaczuk and I speculated it was because when left to his own devices, he often left the mocha pot on the stove long enough so that the house reeked of slightly burned beans, or that in Erico's mind, coffee could never be too dark or too bitter. He liked to add condensed milk to his, which counteracted both the dark and the bitter. Our thoughts were somewhat confirmed, because his favorite name for the establishment we were in was "Charbucks".
We were standing in line, when my eye was caught by some stainless steel travel mugs. I'd been in search of a travel mug, thwarted because many used natural rubber latex in the seal, which, for me, with a severe latex allergy, would have meant that any beverage in the mug would become a true killer cup. But these mugs had silicone seals on the cap. They were colorfully painted, and curved in such a way that they felt good to hold.
Let me back up to explain that just the day before, Erico had found me in tears, self esteem completely gone. Thanks to the steroids that had actually saved my life when my respiratory function plummeted (a gift from that severe latex allergy mentioned above), I had gained a significant amount of weight. (How significant? Let's just say I stopped getting on the scale when I passed a number on the scale that is 40 pounds heavier than my current weight. And I got even heavier, until I was well enough to start exercising regularly again.) I was in tears, because in desperation, I'd pulled out my maternity clothes to find something to wear, and even those were tight on me. I felt like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Pillsbury Doughboy, and Bibendum's sister. I wallowed, waddled, and wept. It was as if I gave ginormous new meaning.
Let me tell you something about my brother, Erico. He was a master story-teller. He could spin a yarn like nobody's business. Paul Bunyan and Blue had nothing on him. His response to his little sister in a melt-down was not to cajole and coddle me. He told me stories. And by the time my son got back from school, my mother up from her nap, and my husband home from work, we were deep in story-land. It was a wondrous thing and I was no longer a huge ball of mess, just huge.
That day at Charbucks, Erico grabbed up one of the pink travel mugs and announced he wanted to get it for me. It reminded him of me, all pink and curvy.
I carried that mug many places. Sometimes it held a beverage I brought from home, sometimes a brew I picked up from one of the wonderful coffee places that have sprung up here in Charleston. In 2008, when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, the pink of the mug took on new meaning. The following year, when both she and Erico were no longer with us, it became a talisman that gave me happy memories when I sipped from it.
But as with anything that gets constant use, there is wear and tear. That pink paint got chipped and scratched. By this year, it was looking a little ratty. Other mugs, sexy and sleek, beckoned, but I held on to my pal, even though it was rather tattered looking.
One day, while talking to a friend, whose art I love, a scheme was launched. He would repaint my mug for me. I told him of Erico, and of "pink and curvy" and placed the mug in his care. I knew this was right, for though I love the memories associated with the giving of the mug, I am not the person I was back then. I've shed the weight, reshaped my life, and kept the memories. I am stronger, and hopefully, a better person. It was only fitting that this talisman transition, too.
It's still got some pink, kept the curves, the memories, and a gotten a touch of the vibrancy of street art I love (there's some stenciling along with the spatter). With this mug travelling with me, I'm ready for new roads, new adventures. Thank you, Crosby Jack, for painting new life into a old companion. I've been blessed with wonderful brothers, lots of memories and good friends.