seemed the Force was strong with me.
(Pedagogy) Philosophy and Nonsense
Thoughts about writing, education, and experience Presented by Forrest D. Poston
The first goal of teaching is to strengthen, deepen and refine our intrinsic love of learning. All other goals and all methods must stem from that idea. Any that do not support that goal must at least be questioned and adjusted, if not eliminated. Otherwise, we are not teaching but training.
|Stupidity sometimes trumps
Four Meanings of Life
Godot and the Great Pumpkin
A Major is More Minor Than
The Poetry Process (A look at 4 versions of a poem.)
Thoughts About Picking a Major
Quick Points About Education
Quick Points About Writing
Reading Poetry and Cloud Watching
Using an Audience
What Makes a Story True?
What's the Subject of This Class? (Being revised.)
Writing and Einstein (The Difference Between Information and Meaning)
Writing and the Goldilocks Dilemma
Links to Other Sites
The Mug, the Magic, and the Mistake
by Forrest D. Poston
It was the late 70s, with the Force strong in
the theaters, and if anyone had the Force with him that
November, it was me. However, even the Force can
have trouble dealing with a teenager in love, the Force
against late adolescent stupidity. Still, this is
a story of hope, of magic from whatever source, of the
possibilities ever-bubbling in youth, a story I need to
remember every now and then when gray hairs and the
lesser side of reason start over-balancing dreams and
possibilities. It's a quest.
This story got lost for a while, tucked away
in memory, and perhaps stories about previous
girlfriends are supposed to be forgotten after twenty
years of marriage, but writers and storytellers are
supposed to remember. It's what we do, even when
the story seems too far-fetched, too full of
coincidence. This one happened, and I'm the only
one who ever knew this side of it, all of the
quirks. Many knew about the mug, but this is more,
the mug, the magic, and the mistake.
I was twenty, just starting my two years as a college dropout, and selling vacuum cleaners door to door, trying to anyway. It was the year my brother, Gary, had died after 26 years with muscular dystrophy and just about two weeks before my grandmother would die as well. However, I had a girlfriend, much to Dad's relief.
It wasn't my first time in love. That was first grade, but this was the first time I had actually tried to do anything about it. This was also just after we had looked out the car window at the same time and both saw our first shooting star. Disbelieve if you wish, but I was there.
We drove up to Parkersburg one evening to do some relatively early Christmas shopping. She shopped, and I watched since that was what I could afford at that point. Her first nephew had been born just a week or two before, so she bought a silver mug at Things Remembered and had it engraved with his name and birthdate. Once that was ready, we started the 35 miles home.
Part way home, she decided to look at the mug, which is where things took a serious turn. When filling out the paperwork for the engraving, she had listed that day's date in place of her nephew's birth date. Ruined. Since neither of us had the money to buy a new mug, or anything else, (and because she had even more of a temper than I did at the time), she got angry and depressed.
I wanted to say something like, "Let's see what tomorrow brings," but it was one of those times when platitudes would turn anger to fury. Instead, I silently told myself, "Wait and see what tomorrow brings" even though there was nothing it could bring. Still, I calculated the minimum I would need for gas and the cost to replace the cup, and I waited.
Tomorrow brought a letter from my car insurance company. A few weeks earlier, I had discovered that they had not credited me for my driver's ed discount, and I certainly wanted that class to pay off in some way at least. They promised to credit my account and specifically said that I would be getting a credit, not a check. I got a check, a check that was just about two dollars over the amount I needed.
I dropped the day's plans and got ready for
Parkersburg. Since it was such a perfect opportunity, I
also started scheming. I liked scheming, nothing
malicious, just planning, and maybe a little too much
manipulation. For this scheme, I needed the "bad" mug,
and I needed to keep a certain girlfriend in the dark.
Given her intelligence, curiosity, and pure stubborness,
that wouldn't be easy without good planning. Every
good scheme needs a challenge.
I called her house, and when she answered, I simply asked to speak with her dad, not an explanation in sight. Having her know that something was going on wasn't essential, just more fun. I told her father that I was going to see about getting the wrong date buffed out and the right date put on, and would need to slip the mug out the house secretly. He thought buffing would leave a clear mark, and so did I, but he had a thing about being sensible. I didn't want to tell him that I was spending my little windfall in quite such a silly way, even if it was for his youngest daughter.
I had a plan for getting the mug out of the house, but sensible Jack was not without his impish streak. Since no one had real reason to suspect him, he slipped the mug out himself and met me up the road from the house. Step one was perfect.
There was no reason to expect trouble on the
drive, but I've rarely owned a car that was especially
reliable, and a 75 Valiant was not a Detroit high point
in quality. No trouble found me. Better than n trouble,
from the edge of Parkersburg to Grand Central Mall,
there are quite a few traffic lights, enough to not
bother counting. That day for the first time and the
last time, I cruised through every single light green,
no stopping, no slowing. It did seem that the Force was
with me, Luke Skywalker co-piloting and Han Solo
clearing the path. I never suspected that it might
be Rod Serling instead.
Even though I had never intended to get the mug buffed, I like to be truthful. To keep my karma balanced, I went to the jewelry store and asked about buffing. It would leave a definite, obvious flat spot. My duty was done, even if I made the jewelry store staff think I was dumb. They were strangers, so it was fine.
In the clear and heading for the home stretch, I went to Things Remembered to order engraving on a new mug. The clerk bent over and opened the cabinet to get one, and she found an empty spot instead. They were out of stock. Even if they knew when more would be in, I wouldn't have enough money to come back. I'd gotten tripped at the finish line.
However, they did have one mug still on display, and the person working decided that she could engrave the display mug if I would give them the mis-engraved mug to use for display. Since it was an even trade, she wouldn't even charge me. And just as I write this, I realize I should have gotten her name. Instead, my benefactor will always remain a stranger who doesn't know the story.
Getting the mug back in the house was the really easy part since I also knew it was the evening my girlfriend met with a group she was in, even if I've since forgotten the group. (Junior Achievement, perhaps, says a distant voice.) The real fun was set for later when some relatives and I would all be there to see her discover the switch.
I couldn't go. I have no memory why, but that
was the one glitch. Instead, I called and told her dad
to go ahead without me. I would have to settle for
hearing about it later, which was good enough now that
the things were in place. Maybe it would have been
different if I had been there, but I've always tended to
go into a down cycle after the scheme came together, so
perhaps this was better.
It was her uncle who asked her to show him the
mug, acting for all the world as if he wanted to tease
her about it. She got it off the shelf, took it out of
the box, and the date had magically changed to her
nephew's birth date. My inner-knight-errant could feel
worthy of his horse, shield and sword. Quest
Perhaps that should have been where that story
ended, but another part of me had an itch. There was a
magical story sitting in the display case of Things
Remembered, and nobody knew it. People were walking up
and down the aisle as if it were an ordinary mug, and
that just didn't seem right. To my girlfriend, the
mug with the correct date was the magic one, but somehow
it was the flawed mug that spoke to me. I should
have remembered that this was supposed to be her story,
Somewhere, I came into a little more cash, although it wasn't from selling vacuum cleaners. (I only sold 3: one to some friends when I was only supposed to be doing a practice demo, one to my grandmother because grandmothers do such things, and one to my parents because parents do such things.) I went back and bought the display mug, even if it took some explaining as to why I wanted somebody else's engraving.
To me that mug was the only symbol of the story that would stay around. The "good" mug was headed for Oklahoma come Christmas. Perhaps we should be able to remember and believe without physical proof, but I wanted that mug. I wanted to show other people and tell the story for years to come, one of those family things that no one would believe. Then I could point and say, "But here's the very mug."
I could have kept the mug for myself, maybe
should have, but I gave it to my girlfriend as a
Christmas present. I'm a storyteller (and a
schemer), but I forgot to plan. She thought that I
was making fun of her, and I had no story to tell
somehow. I guess at the time I didn't really know
the story, only knew that there was one, one in which
this mug was important. No, it didn't really hurt
the relationship, though I suppose it was an indication
of what would turn that shooting star from a symbol of
romance into one of brevity. There would be other
times when I needed to understand our story, to
understand it well enough to tell her, other times I
We're always living stories, bits of pieces of
the ongoing story around us, and we're always seeking to
both understand and write those stories as they happen,
but sometimes we slip. The story changes, but we
go on living it and telling it. Sometimes we look
back and find a story from the past, one we may have
lived a little too soon.
In school, we're often forced to read books
that we aren't really old enough to understand, much
less enjoy, Julius Caesar in high school, The Sun Also
Rises in college. But when we encounter the same
story years later, it makes much more sense. No,
hindsight isn't really 20-20 because there's still way
too much I don't understand, and the stories from the
past change as we grow. We can't live in the past,
but we need to visit there. Some stories need to
be remembered, need to be told, reshaped and told
again. Maybe this was one of those stories, the
kind that help us understand the past so we can be more
self-aware, live and write our stories better today and
tomorrow. It's a quest.
|Back to the Home Page
Other Essays and Poetry
Something Somewhat Vaguely Like a Resume
Being Like Children
The Blessing and the Blues
The Cat With a Bucket List
David and the Revelation
The Dawn, the Dark, and the Horse I Didn't Ride In On (an odd, meandering, semi-romantic story)
Ghost Dancer in the Twilight Zone
The Hair Connection and the Nature of Choices
The Mug, the Magic, and the Mistake
Trumpet Player, USDA Approved
The Poetry Process
Writing by Current or Former Students
Ms. Write Meets Her Match in Jr. Ms. Write Now
by Heide Perry
I'll Just Have Cats
by Cara Hummel
Toys to Toys
by Allyson Bowlds
Scribbles and Bits
Links to Other Sites