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Rickter Scale: Hanging on to what we can’t replace

The Rickter Scale is a weekly column in the Goldstream News Gazette

Rick Stiebel/Columnist

I’m sitting here, typing away while sipping from a mug that holds more memories than the countless coffees I’ve slurped from its rim.

The bride surprised me with this particular mug, an unexpected gift, on the way back from our Long Beach honeymoon. I was determined to make the one o’clock ferry in Nanaimo that day so we could get back to the mainland in time for Monday Night Football, but Joan wanted to stop in Coombs, so I grudgingly acquiesced.

We missed the sailing by 10 minutes and I didn’t handle the delayed departure very well, according to the poor folks in the lineup who had to bear witness to my rant from afar, my arms flapping wildly like the wings of a flightless bird. Joan waited until I had calmed down and apologized profusely at least 10 times before giving me the mug I’m holding now, the object, as it were, of our delay. It’s mostly mottled blue, speckled like the colour of an uncertain sky, with random splashes of grey dripping toward the bottom like a clock in a Salvador Dali painting.

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Sept. 10 will mark 25 years of sipping my morning coffee from that vessel, barring the kind of unforeseen flap life rarely forecasts in advance. The mug serves as a steady reminder about how much I’ve learned to control my temper, at least under the bride’s watchful eye. It’s a clay testament to how fortunate I am to have found someone who puts up with me and loves me as well, a 364-page potter’s calendar that adds another ring each year like a tree.

It’s survived numerous near misses, a move from New Westminster to Burnaby and a ferry ride to the Island, followed by weeks in storage while we searched for our home in Sooke.

It’s always only one careless flick away, however, from smashing into irreplaceable pieces on the unforgiving concrete floor of our garage, where I seek the solitude of my first nicotine and caffeine cocktail every morning. I fear the very thought of the mug’s demise, how I would feel and how Joan would handle it, while other moments find me wandering back to when I first moved in with her.

I was doing the dishes and accidentally broke a juice glass seeming generic in appearance. I bought a replacement before she got home at the Woodward’s that used to be around the corner, not far from where she grew up and shopped regularly with her mom. Turns out this wasn’t any ordinary old juice glass, however. It was the one she used since she was three, a little glass overflowing with memories of her childhood and her mother gone these many, many years.

Although the bride blinked a few times through misty eyes, she managed to take the loss in stride. I hope I can handle the loss of my mug that well, if or when that day arrives. Maybe that’s why we hang on so tightly to memories of what we can’t replace.

Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.

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