Mugs filled with memories

Last week I wrote about the devastation to our family’s mountain vacation home caused by a faulty joint in a water pipe and many days, or possibly even weeks, of flooding coming from an upstairs bathroom. In late September, after nearly eight months of demolition, rebuilding, rethinking, and refurnishing, the home was finally back to move-in, useable condition.
However, even though the house may have been livable, it wasn’t yet our home. So many of the things that make a house a home – knick-knacks, heirlooms, paintings, photos, memorabilia, books, magazines, chotskies, dishes, glasses, serving trays, pots, pans, utensils, blankets, sheets, pillows, photo albums, stereos, TVs —  even such mundane things as paper towel holders and dish drying racks — were missing. They were either gone – destroyed by flooding – or were still wrapped in thick plastic bags and stored away in boxes that were quickly and efficiently packed away in storage by the disaster recovery company who showed up within hours of discovery of the catastrophe that bitterly cold night, last February, high in the Eastern Sierras.
Getting things back to feeling even remotely like our family’s home again will take many trips up north to the house, spread out over many months, if not years. The process has certainly begun already, with other family members going up a few weeks ago to get things started, and my wife and me going up and back over a quick weekend recently to replace linens, make beds, put clothes back into dressers and closets, install light fixtures, toilet paper holders, shower curtains … you know, exciting stuff like that.
And yet, until this whole catastrophe with the house happened, I hadn’t given much thought to how important those seemingly insignificant, “little” things can be when it comes to making a house a home. What drove home this concept were two small, brown, plastic mugs made to look like carved Tiki heads. Yep, Tikis – as in the kind of cheap souvenirs you’d get at some theme restaurant on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki, O’ahu.
So, what do tacky Tiki chotskies have to do with a cozy log home in the Sierras? Long story short, our family vacation home had come “furnished” with an odd, hand-me-down, vintage rental-house assortment of beyond-well-worn couches, tables and chairs, a threadbare carpet that had seen years of foot traffic laden with winter ice and summer trail dust, and kitchen cabinets stuffed with all sorts of vintage cooking utensils, mismatched dishes and a hodgepodge collection of glasses. In amongst this odd collection were two plastic Tiki mugs.
My own kids discovered these mugs in the kitchen cabinet the very first time we stayed at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s new mountain home. Mind you, this was long enough ago that the boys I wrote about dropping off at college in last month’s columns were in diapers at the time. Our two older kids (not in diapers, thank you very much) decided that the Tiki mugs were cool enough they wanted to use them for their first cups of hot cocoa with marshmallows in the new family vacation home. Still with me? Good.
From those very first servings of hot cocoa, the Tiki mugs became one of our family’s most cherished (albeit simple) traditions that signified we were on vacation.
Now flash forward to our recent visit to put the house back together. Imagine our distress when we discovered that someone from our extended family had, only weeks before, found the Tiki mugs among the still-boxed-up house contents – only to decide that the mugs weren’t worth keeping — and had given them to a local thrift shop. Being that it was a Sunday, and the thrift shop in question is only open a few days each week, we weren’t able to determine if the mugs are already some other family’s treasure, or if we can rescue them for future batches of hot cocoa. Stay tuned.
I’ll see you ‘round town.

Jim Chase is an award-winning advertising copywriter and lifetime CV resident. Find him online at