How many plastic cups do you have in your home? If you have children I'm going to go out on a limb to put the over/under bet at twelve. Our treasury varies, but I peg the population of wild souvenir cups somewhere between fifteen and twenty. Trying to get an accurate count would require venturing into two teenage Petri chambers at our house (better take a ciprofloxacin capsule first) where they are reluctantly dragged carrying at various times water, goldfish, chex mix, and other processed carbs. The SEC Championship Game (sorry Georgia), Batman, Strawberry Shortcake, Veggie Tales, and Krispy Kreme all have emissaries holding down scarce shelf space in our kitchen. And despite their infinite stackability, I confess to having eyed the trash can with a rumor of murder in my heart more than once. Don't judge me though; a fully loaded top rack in the dishwasher could drive anyone to madness. But with few exceptions, these cups have managed to survive; invading our otherwise tasteful place settings like post-apocalyptic cockroaches that just won't die. But over the last few years my thoughts have changed. Once cursed for every water ring I spotted on the furniture and unavailable space in our dishwasher, I've come to see these gaudy baubles as something vastly different and more meaningful...markers of my children's youth flying by at an astonishing pace.
Where do you keep your plastic cups? We keep ours in a low, out of the way cabinet,....nowhere near the plates and glasses. If our cups were citizens of a city, they would definitely reside on the wrong side of the railroad tracks (our beer and wine glasses also lack prime real estate...you don't place a liquor store in the hood zoned R-1). Regardless of their distance from the fridge and water dispenser, our boys choose the plastic cups. I can't pinpoint the exact moment my perception of the cups changed, but the shift was tectonic. Maybe it was the appearance of facial hair and daily directives to return and "put on deodorant" because they smelled homeless. But whatever clicked pushed my nostalgia meter from it's normal setting of seven (ten point scale...naturally) to a nine. I began to process the growing disconnect between the young men eating us out of house and home and the vessels from which they chose to drink. I came to see those objects, never designed to last very long, as time capsules; tiny cups delivering my child's innocence 8 -12 ounces at a time.
The boys don't notice the cups. When friends are over and they are acting as gracious hosts, chances are the refreshments will be served up in superhero cups. There's no pretense, no embarrassment, no awareness that they still chose the kid's cups. And I love it,...because it allows me a brief moment to see them as I always will, my beautiful, young, sweet, innocent boys. They have a lifetime of fun, love, mistakes, heartache, and happiness ahead of them. But for now, my 15-year old drinks his orange juice out of a 6-ounce Strawberry Shortcake cup and it makes me smile. I fully grasp the fleeting tie between the little boys that we drug around the country with us for so many years and the handsome young men that I love just as much. Those cups are a visible reminder that the time I have with my boys at home is fleeting. So hold onto those plastic cups as long as you can, they won't last forever.