RICKTER SCALE: Attached to things that reman unbroken

why do we hang on so tightly to memories of things we can never replace

Rick Stiebel


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 it on our way back from our Long Beach honeymoon. I was intent on getting the one o’clock ferry so we could get back to the Mainland in time for Monday Night Football, but Joan wanted to stop and shop in Coombs so I acquiesced.

We missed the sailing by 10 minutes and I didn’t handle the wait well, according to the poor folks in the lineup who witnessed from afar my mini rant, arms wildly flapping like the wings of a flightless bird.

Joan waited until I calmed down enough to apologize at least 10 times before giving me the mug, the object as it were of our delay. It’s mostly glazed in speckled blue the colour of an uncertain sky, with random splashes of grey dripping toward the bottom like a clock from a Salvador Dali painting.

Sept. 10 will mark 24 years of sipping my morning coffee from that mug, barring something unforeseen that life doesn’t forecast in advance. The mug is an occasional reminder of how much I’ve learned to control my temper under the bride’s watchful eye, a clay testament to each year we survive, a 364-page potter’s calendar to how fortunate I am to have found someone who puts up with me and loves me as well.

The mug has survived a move from New Westminster to Burnaby and a B.C. Ferries crossing to the Island followed by some time in storage while we searched for a home in Sooke.

I know, however, that it is one careless flick away from smashing into irreparable pieces on the unforgiving concrete floor of the garage, where I seek the solitude of my first nicotine and caffeine cocktail of the day.

The thought of its demise occasionally fills me with the fear of how I will feel after it’s gone and buried. Sometimes I find myself thinking about how the bride would handle it and other times I wander back to when I first moved in with her.

I was doing the dishes and broke a juice glass seemingly generic in appearance at the time. I bought a replacement before she got home from work at Woodward’s around the corner from where we lived, not that far from where Joan grew up.

Turns out this wasn’t any old juice glass, however. It was the glass from which she sipped from the age of three, something she cared for all those years that carried precious memories of her mother and her childhood no longer with her.

Although there was a brief moment of blinks through misty eyes, the bride managed to take the loss in stride.

I hope I can handle it the same way if I manage to outlive my mug. Maybe that’s why we hang on so tightly to memories of things we can never replace.


Rick Stiebel is a Sooke resident and a semi-retired journalist.