We didn’t get to choose which ones survived.
Ten mugs hang safely on the mug tree that sits next to our coffee maker on the small Ikea table by the kitchen window. Every few weeks I rotate which mugs get to be on the tree for coffee duty. I didn’t know when I put those eight there that they would end up survivors, the silent witnesses of their brethren sitting dutifully in the middle cupboard before on a Friday afternoon tumbling out of the cupboard after the plastic pegs holding up their shelf gave way.
Had I known, I would have been much more selective, would have made the impossible decisions about which darlings to save and which to let die. The process would have been anguishing—more than it ought to be, realistically, but we are Mug People, so we are not realistic about our mugs.
But I didn’t know. Mugs that were filled with meaning—inside jokes, souvenirs from faraway places and unforgettable experiences—that were for some unknown reason not the Chosen Ones cascaded to early deaths in a flash, and there was nothing we could do about it. It didn’t happen like Jenga, after placing one too many atop each other and seeing the tenuous heap collapse before my eyes. Then I would have, might have, been able to avert an avalanche and save a few more mugs from shattering on the floor. But it happened during the day, while we were at work and none the wiser.
I got the pictures from my wife: shards of ceramic and glass littering the counter and kitchen floor. I could make out some of the designs and logos and familiar features of our reliable morning friends in the larger fragments that stood out amidst the particulates. Didn’t matter. They were dead and gone, and the remainders were accidents.
We don’t get to choose. We can just say goodbye after it’s too late.
The world doesn’t need more thinkpieces about Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but I’ll just say her advice about thanking the things you give away for the meaning they provided in their time of service… it’s good advice. Especially for Mug People who lost most of their mugs against their will.
Stuff is stuff is stuff, except when it isn’t.