One of my grandfathers had a coffee mug that was “his” mug. No one else used Grandpa’s mug. It was a yellow mug, but not a really bright yellow. Very similar to the one pictured here.
It was nearly identical in shape to a set of sage green and brown mugs that matched grandma’s everyday plates. That particular shape of stackable coffee mug was very popular when I was a kid. My other grandparents had a set that was very similar in a dark blue—though the bottom, narrow section of the mug was a little taller. And my parents had a set that was a darker, brownish-yellow than grandpa’s, was a gradient of the dark yellow at the top of the mug, becoming dark chocolate brown by the bottom. I remember seeing similar mugs at the homes of many friends.
But, as I said, Grandpa’s mug was different. It was only for Grandpa to use. No one got yelled at if you used Grandpa’s mug by mistake, it was just someone would say, “You can’t use Grandpa’s cup!” or something. Grandpa would laugh if someone else used it. He’d say something like, “Just tell me you didn’t put it in the dishwasher! Never wash my coffee cup, only rinse it!”
Whenever he used his mug, afterward he’d rinse it out himself and set it to dry so it would be ready for him the next day. I remember sometimes when Grandma was gathering up dishes after a meal, Grandpa would say something like, “Where are you going with my coffee cup?” Then Grandma would say, “I’m not going to wash your cup! I’m just getting it out of the way. You insist on special treatment for it? Well, then it’s your responsibility to wash it!”
I never saw him use soap on the mug. He would rinse it out, wipe it with a dish cloth, and rinse it again with hot water. That was it. He gave different explanations over time about why he didn’t want his mug washed. Sometimes he claimed that the dishwasher did something to the mugs that made coffee taste wrong. Other times he claimed that the soap taste was very difficult to rinse out.
When my last surviving great-grandfather died, a bunch of relatives from his side of the family came to town for the funeral. We had some family gatherings at several different relatives’ houses in town, and at some point the fact that Grandpa’s mug was to be rinsed, not washed came up, and one of my great-uncles told a story about some other distant relative who had a rule like that, except he didn’t even like to wipe the mug with a rag, because he claimed that the rag wiped out the “seasoning” on the mug.
In my later teens, after I became a coffee addict myself, someone gave me a mug as a birthday or christmas present. It was orange. It wasn’t stackable, but it was my mug. And I started treating it the way that Grandpa had his yellow mug. I rinsed and wiped it out by hand whenever I wanted to use it, keeping it out of the regular washing cycle.
A few years later, when Mom finally remarried and moved away to live with my stepdad, while I went to college, my orange mug went with Mom. It was a few years before I once again got a mug that I considered mine. My ex-wife was taking art classes from this guy who did pottery, and he made a particular shape of large mug. We ended up with two. Mine was a really dark blue, so dark it was practically black. I don’t remember what color hers was. I resumed the practice, along with a tendency to pretend to throw a melodramatic fit if, when I unloaded the dishwasher, I found the mug had been run with the regular dishes.
The truth is, I did wash it with soap from time to time. And probably about a quarter of the time that I found it in the dishwasher, I had put it there myself, because I was loading the dishwasher in a hurry and not thinking about it. I didn’t actually believe that coffee from the mug tastes wrong if it got washed with soap, or if it went through the dishwasher. I also strongly suspect that Grandpa washed his mug out with soap at least occasionally, just never when anyone was watching.
It’s a habit/personal in-joke/eccentricity I’ve hung onto for years since. Even though that mug was broken and replaced. And many of my special mugs have been broken and replaced over the years. I rinse my mug separately from the other dishes. I almost never put it in the dishwasher. If I catch Michael putting it in the dishwasher, I pretend to be upset. And he rolls his eyes and laughs at me. Or sometimes he adds to the joke by saying something like, “You caught me! I’m trying to poison you!”
I’m sure a pop psych person would say that I perpetuate the joke to feel close to my now-deceased grandfather. And that’s probably at least part of the appeal. At this point I really don’t care. It’s my joke. I’m probably the only one amused by it. But I stick to it.
Most of the time.
Friday was a work-from-home day. As I usually do on a work-from-home day, I made myself a pot of coffee, checked and responded to work email until the coffee’s perked, put some of said coffee into a travel mug, then drove my husband into work. Once home, what I usually do is transfer the remaining coffee from the travel mug into my purple mug, top it off with more coffee from the pot (by which point I am considering starting another pot, because while typical modern American coffee mugs and (most travel mugs) hold what the markings on the side of a coffee pot say ought to be two or three cups worth of coffee, my big purple mug holds five. So between my travel mug (which I have probably drank half of on the trip to drop Michael at his work) and topping off my big mug, by that point I’ve already emptied at least half the coffee out of my 12-cup pot.
So, this last Friday, there I was, back at the house, about to sit down and start cranking on documentation revisions. I run into the kitchen, take the lid off my travel mug, pick up my big mug intended to rinse it out…
…and the biggest f—ing daddy long legs spider I have ever seen in my life looms up out of my purple mug at me.
I did not throw the mug, shattering it into a million pieces, but it was a near thing. I flipped the hot water to full and shoved the mug under the stream, drowning the spider as quickly as I could get it washed out of the mug. I grabbed the bottle of soap, squirted some in, and scrubbed.
And switched from the brush to the steel wool and scrubbed some more.
I may have squirted soap and re-rinsed three or four times.
I was definitely very seriously considering running to Fred Meyers to see if they still had the nearly identical mugs that I had seen on sale there recently.
Have I mentioned that I absolutely hate spiders?
When I was finished scrubbing, I set the mug down, picked up my travel cup, and started to pour the coffee in.
But I kept reliving that moment when the spider was coming up out of my mug at me…
So, I rinsed the mug yet again, opened up the dishwasher, and put the mug into it. I needed a more thorough cleansing of the mug before I would be able to drink from it without cringing in horror.
For the rest of the day I drank coffee out of my travel mug.
I got the purple mug out of the dishwasher yesterday and have been using it since. And no, I have no intention of changing how I treat my mug. It was good enough for Grandpa, it’s good enough for me.
I’m not going to let the spiders win!