random thoughts: forks & mugs

My grampa had a fork.

It was a huge fork, not quite as big as the kind you might use to serve huge slabs of beef or a rack of pork ribs, but dammit, it was close.  A long, lanky utensil, it was actually more tarnish than silver, and for normal humans it was impossible to fit your mouth; however, my grampa was a long, lanky man, towering over 6'4", and the fork somehow worked.

The thing about this fork is that as long as I knew him, it was the only fork Grampa used.  Grampa used it for every meal, and even snacks in between (and incidentally, there was no associated knife with this fork, he'd just use any knife from the utensil drawer).  Under no circumstances was anyone else -- not his wife nor even a random friend stopping by -- allowed to use it.  I mean, nothing too frightening would happen if we did use it -- it's not like he was the dude from Sleeping with the Enemy -- but we just knew that our daring to use the fork was A Very Bad Thing.  Once, when I was living with my grandparents for a time, I remember looking for a fork to have a slice of cake.  Grampa's fork was the only one that was clean.  As I picked it up to use it, I felt someone watching me.  I turned to see my 5' tall grandmother standing in the kitchen doorway, glaring at me in a way that would've melted titanium.  I quietly put the fork back in the drawer, and went to rinse one that was lying in the sink. 

I never made that mistake again.

Grampa died in the late 80's, at the age of 85.  About a year ago, I was in the kitchen at my mom's house here in Houston looking for a utensil, when at the bottom of the drawer, I spotted a huge, tarnished fork.

"Mom!" I said with surprise, picking it up and showing it to her.

"Yes, that's Grampa's," she said with a smile.  "I got it after he died."

I smiled back, and returned it to its place.  Twenty years later, and I still couldn't use it.

* * * * * * *

Two weeks ago, I found myself in one of those pottery places -- you know the ones, where they give you an unglazed ceramic item, some paints, and charge you unholy amounts of money to paint it yourself?  I was one of the only adults in the store, and seeing as I had a couple of hours to kill, I figured I'd choose something and give the painting a go.  Since I am, after all, a pretty big tea drinker, I found a large mug and thought I'd customize it especially for myself.

I picked a few paint colours -- mostly blues and greens, my favourite colours, because they remind me of Trinidad -- and got to work. The woman working the store had mentioned that to make the colours properly opaque, three coats of each colour needed to be applied, so I painstakingly brushed the colours on.  Kids walked by me with raised eyebrows, feeling somewhat resentful, I suspect, that I was there stealing their precious paints, but I didn't care.  My brow furrowed, beads of sweat appeared, and I ignored everyone as I worked on my little mug.  Finally, I signed my name on the bottom and dated it, took out a loan (not really, but close) and paid the woman, leaving the mug there in the store to be fired in the kiln.

Late last week, I picked it up, and to tell you that the final result is imperfect is to be kind.  Despite my hard work, I apparently didn't apply the paints very evenly: the colours are sloppy, there are parts near the bottom where it looks like I might have fallen asleep during the process, and there's even a small clump of God-knows-what on the side, where some sort of gunk got caught in the paint before it was fired.  And yet? I've become obsessed with this cup.  I use it for every cup of tea I have (and trust me, I have many cups of tea during the day), and I'm embarrassed to say that there have been a few occasions when Marcus has brought me tea in a different cup, and I've made him switch mugs (dude, he didn't marry me because I'm easy to live with). 

I love this mug.

Anyway, who knows -- maybe one day, Alex's 40-something-year-old daughter will find my mug in Alex's kitchen long after I'm gone.  I figure if she does and it inspires a fond memory or two, it might mean that I lived a decent-enough life.

It certainly is true of Grampa, anyway.

Image:  Photographed on my kitchen table with my Nikon D300 and 50mm lens. aperture 1.4, shutter speed 1/160, ISO 200.  Incidentally, when I took this picture, I was about to fill the mug with Miro Mango Redux tea, from the package Tea sent me.  Dear God, that's good tea.  It's also number 6 in my life list quest to try 700 blends of tea.



SongThe boy from Ipanema, as performed by Diana Krall.  My grandfather was quite the world traveler, and for some reason, this song always reminds me of him.