Last week my husband and I were scheduled to look at a piece of land we were considering buying. We were supposed to meet the realtor at 9:30 am. Now, if you know me, you know when I’m not working I barely get out of bed before 9:30 am, and when I have to, I’m not very happy about it, much like that morning. I stumbled into our kitchen at 9:10 am and opened the cabinet that held all my to-go mugs (I have a bit of a hoarding situation when it comes to cups) and saw an old blue mug. I grabbed it, miraculously found the lid, and proceeded to bring it to the coffee pot. As coffee filled that mug, I thought back to when I first got that pretty blue mug and realized it was almost 30 years ago.
As I stood, half asleep watching the coffee fill the mug I reflected on the woman that first purchased that mug. I was shaken out of my daydream when my husband said: “We are going to be late!” I put the lid on my mug and walked out the door and climbed in my car. As I put the coffee mug into the cup holder of my car, I had tears in my eyes. Maybe it was the rushing through the morning, maybe it was because I didn’t sleep very well the night before, but I just looked at that travel mug sitting in my car and thought to myself, “Wow, look how far you’ve come.” I bought that mug when I was a single mom and really couldn’t afford it, it was part of a monthly coffee membership, and the mug came for “free.” It was back in the days when I was on WIC (a food stamp-like program that provided things like milk, cheese, cereal for women, infants, and children up to the age of five). I would shop at a grocery store far from home so people wouldn’t see me using those checks. I was embarrassed, but I knew I shouldn’t be, but I was. It was back in time when I had to fight my ex-husband for every single dime. A time when the three of us survived on fish sticks and cheerios for weeks on end.
I sat at the stop light looking down at that mug; it was sitting in my new fancy car. It used to sit in my neon green Geo Tracker. The back door of that car didn’t open, there was something wrong with it, and I couldn’t afford to get it fixed. The soft top convertible was slashed on both sides because someone tried to steal the radio. The “trunk” was all but nonexistent, and when my son had to cram all his hockey gear in the back, I was sure I was going to have a hockey stick through the heart if we ever stopped short. My kids loved that stupid car and on the rare occasion that they see one on the road, they will take a picture of it and send it to me, usually with a comment like “awe, such good memories of that car” or “awe, I miss the tracker so much.” Thankfully they also loved fish sticks and never knew they were eating them several times a week because that was all I could afford. But as I was sitting in my new fancy car, I was amazed at how far I have come. I also sat there thinking how oblivious my kids were when they were little that money was so tight. I never really thought I would ever get out of the hole that was single motherhood. I use to pray for just $5,000 to get me back to zero, but back then, it might as well have been a million dollars. I remember one weekend when the kids were at their father’s house; I was sitting on the stairs in my rented townhouse on the phone with a credit card company, explaining to them how I couldn’t even make the monthly payment. I was in tears.
I was in tears a lot those days, secretly crying with my sunglasses on driving down the road in that tracker all while my kids sat in the back seat giggling and being silly. I was so stressed out in those days that even their laughing and silliness made me angry. However, against all the odds, that little glass mug survived and so did we, me and my two little chickens. I’m not saying life has been all rainbows and butterflies, but on the whole, my life is good, really good. My chicken’s lives are good, really good. As I drank the last of the coffee from that little blue mug, I promised myself I would never throw it away. It will always be a reminder to myself that even though I didn’t ever believe life would get better, it did.