My red mug sings to me tonight, and I notice and laugh, because red mugs rarely do.
But this one does, after I pour the water and climb the stairs with it clutched tight. A noise sputters and hums and I look below the colored liquid and see a hole in the smooth enamel, down to the clay, where the steam must be laughing.
And the paper, laying beside it reads in messy black
What we strive for
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
The darling, beautiful singing mug that makes me grin while I check my emails, because it lost its perfection.
And they say to write about what you know, or don’t write at all. Well a red singing mug is my territory, because I know what it is to sing with a crack in the enamel.
I was the daughter of a couple who lived the gospel with skin, and left home to give that gospel, and I was raised outside of sewing circles and smooth church benches and volleyball on Friday night.
And I wore long skirts with clashing sweaters
and showed up to church in eight-year-old bare feet, when all the others had crisp white socks with the fringe of lace above shiny black shoes.
My hair swung tangled and wild around my shoulders
And while others printed neat in notebooks and learned grammar I read till my eyes hurt out under the grass and drank tea with strangers and flew from one creative project to another until my room reeked of hot glue and the desk never lost its paint stains. I waded through black swamps until my skin was dyed brown and picked wild blueberries until my fingernails gave up ever looking pink again.
I was an expert at being imperfect and it was the music that made me alive.
Then, later, I was ushered into the world of “normal”, as they say. And while my awkward adolescent legs tripped around the foreign landscapes of church foyers I discovered that they did not understand and looked blank when I tried to explain what I knew as life.
And I was too loud for the girls and I didn’t understand their jokes and the boys were different from the ones back home, and they thought I was a funny circus show, but not something to stand too close to.
So I learned how to braid my hair neat and I became silence and all it took to intimidate me was one look across a room.
I fought hard to dress right and wore the big clunky shoes that were so in, even though I hated them.
And I lied more and slowly my life became an inner vow to never be the odd one and I forced myself to play volleyball, even though I cried in the dark afterward. .
For years I tried to be perfect. And that is the truth.
It’s harder to keep up a façade when others start to notice the lies.
And it’s hard because it kills you inside, and I was still too crazy underneath to die perfect.
And crazy, singing like a red mug, cubby on the desk with the hole in the bottom, is better than pretending.
Just so you know, my room is never neat rows of sticky notes, lined up straight, and I write essays the night they are due, and trip over my own feet, and hurry my prayers like TV dinners some days.
My hair is fluffy around my ears instead of pulled back straight and I wear slippers to church and don’t care if you like lattes, because I think they are overrated, as are Mennonite cupboards and neat sitting rooms with potted plants.
And sometimes I feel the familiar claw of intimidation grab my throat, when I stand in a group and feel awkwardness like a sign taped on my forehead. The old, “What am I missing that they have?” thought flashes.
But sometimes is not always, which is better than before.
And I laugh at myself and others more, because really, who did I ever think could achieve normal?
After all, isn’t a singing mug more chic than a silent one, even if it has Starbucks written on the side?