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Like many, I start my day with a cup or two of coffee. The first thing I do once I'm down the stairs is head to the coffee maker, slip in a pod of Fog Chaser, and impatiently wait for the cup to fill. Our cabinet has a multitude of different cups for tea, cocoa, and, of course, good old java. There are cups given to us by banks, some brightly painted ceramic cups that I have no idea from where they came, and assorted cups from visitors and relatives who came over with a cup and just left it in our sink. Most likely, everyone's cabinet has a mish-mash of collected cups.

But of all the cups in the cabinet, I always choose one from a set of mugs we got from Tupperware. We were living in Charlottesville, Va., at the time. Maybe one of our friends invited my wife to a Tupperware party, and she felt obligated to order something. There are two sets of the cups; one is a solid maroon color, and the other a color called Blush, which is sort of a flesh tone color, I guess. The cups are plastic, light in weight, and most likely, quite inexpensive. They are durable, dishwasher-safe, and stained from years of dark coffee sitting in them. I like the cup because the plastic keeps my coffee hot. Ceramic cups tend to cool hot drinks too rapidly. Still, I never thought about why I always use these cups when so many others are readily available.

We tend to attach memories and feelings to inanimate objects when they are used on a daily basis. A favorite pair of shoes, hat, or jewelry may have an appeal to us because we associate the object with a certain time in our lives. In times of turmoil or stress we want something we can depend on, an anchor, perhaps, that allows us to focus on what matters.

The year 2000 was a very stressful year for me and my wife. I was fired from a managerial position in March of that year for "insubordination" because I stuck my finger in the face of the company owner while I chewed him out for belittling and abusing an employee under my supervision. It felt good at the time, but the consequences did not feel so good. I had never been fired. I started consulting for a San Diego, Calif., company which then turned into a vice-presidential position. I moved to the West Coast while my family stayed behind to sell the house. About three weeks into the position the president of the company was fired for refusing to go along with an underhanded and unethical ploy. The position was offered to me, but I refused, quit, and headed back home to Missouri.

We made the choice to go back to Arkansas to start our own company. Money was in short supply and bills were plenty. We moved back in with my parents for almost a year. It was a stressful time of re-adjustment. Most of our goods were packed away in storage as there was little room for our own belongings. Starting a business and coming back home after 20 years of being independent was not easy.

About eight months into the change my wife and I took a few boxes out of storage and back to my parents' house. I can't remember what we were needing but one of the boxes contained those plastic coffee cups. I didn't even remember packing them. Finding those cups was like meeting a long-lost friend. The emotion that hit me was so unexpected, I do recall tearing up a little. But we both were happy to have those cups back for morning coffee. Twenty years later, we still use them daily.

In hindsight, I think finding the cups reminded me that I had not really lost anything. I had family, skills, and ambition. We would be fine. Those cups aren't attractive, in fact, they are quite ugly, but they serve a purpose. They are reliably on the shelf, waiting to be put into service again.

The wife and I sometimes complain about the crowded cabinets. But neither one of us has ever suggested tossing away those cups.

-- Devin Houston is the president/CEO of Houston Enzymes. Send comments or questions to devin.houston@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 10/09/2019

Print Headline: Cups of comfort

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