Ten years ago this August, I began a year of service that changed my life. I was 22, fresh out of college, and fired up to live in intentional community, practice simplicity and sustainability, work for social justice, and let my Christian faith out of the box it inhabited for most of my undergraduate years.
I was about to begin my year in Lutheran Volunteer Corps.
It was a wonderful time. Among the five of us, I think we had two cell phones, one lap top, and zero cars. We had no Internet and no cable. We packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ate so much store-brand stuff that we stopped to take our picture in front of the Roundy’s sign when we saw it on the way to a retreat.
We didn’t do a lot of frivolous shopping. But three of us did make a serious investment that year: we invested in seasonal mini mugs.
They were three for 99 cents at Walgreen’s, and were hotly anticipated before each major holiday. Pumpkins and ghosts for Halloween, Santas and snowmen for Christmas, a slightly creepy bunny for Easter.
We loved them so much that we bought them the year after our volunteer year, too, when the three of us lived together again. (It was a sad day when we realized that there would be no Easter mini mugs. No, I am not kidding.)
We enjoyed those mini mugs for the three years we lived together, displaying them with pride and enjoying festive beverages from their strange, smiling faces. When we were getting ready to move away–from Milwaukee and from each other–we weren’t sure what to do.
Break up the collection, like Hayley Mills’ misguided parents in The Parent Trap? It seemed too sad. We contemplated leaving them on a stranger’s door step, or ceremoniously smashing them after one last toast. Nothing seemed right.
In the end, we couldn’t bear to part with our mini mugs, so we each took our own. Seven years later, mine have survived moving between Milwaukee and Chicago (twice, because Pro Tip: Moving is Awesome) and then to Minnesota. They hang out on the top shelf of my favorite glass-doored bookcase, without much to do.
Until this winter. Mike, his dad, Zoe, and I were sitting around the kitchen table, looking forward to steaming mugs of hot chocolate. Suddenly, I knew the time had come to bust out a certain novelty seasonal item:
So, what did we learn? Two things, I think:
1. Being weirdly sentimental about seasonal novelty items totally pays off.
2. 99 cents is a small price to pay for so many years of happiness.
What household objects have special meaning for you?
If you’re wondering what inspired my sentimental / nostalgic musings, I will tell you: I’m reading applications for next year’s Lutheran Volunteer Corps! Look for a post next week all about the wonders of LVC and the folks who are a part of it.