Tuesday, October 4, 2011


The table between the couches...and our coasters

Yesterday I was having coffee on our leather sofa in the big lounge we call the living room.  As I put my cup down on our coaster, I noticed the one on the bottom of the stack...and smiled.  It is (like so many treasured things in my life) an odd thing.

Our coasters are a matching set of glass squares that have artistic impressions of Africa’s Big Five on them.  All except one, a cork-backed one of Munich, or Munchen, as it says on the front.

The one cork-backed coaster is the last of a set we have had for twenty years, a gift from my Aunt Emmy, after a trip she made to Munich.  We used them in our former living rooms, usually at Family night where we played Tripoli at the dining room table with the kids (and occasionally my brother-in-law’s family).  The coasters would stick to the bottom of our glasses, wet with condensation from iced Diet Cokes or Orange Juice.  They even stuck to the winter beverages, like the hot chocolate that Vince and Alicia loved, or my Rooibos tea, once we discovered it.  

We used the sentimental coasters until they were tattered at the edges and had the paper coming up from the cork.  I super-glued them when it was time to move, and they came with us to South Africa.  Here, they took their place in the living room with the entire African decor (“Your room kind of looks like a game lodge,” people would say) and became the sticky bottoms to our Southern Hemispheric cold drinks. 

A few weeks ago, at a table fair at the Northgate Mall, Mario discovered the “new” coasters, a set of clear glass ones with gummed feet:  proper, beautiful replacements to the tattered ones we had for years.  I loved them immediately.  I even loved the way they looked as a stack: green sides in a geometrically perfect pattern against the potted plant on the table between the two couches.

I was glad to throw away the old Munich ones, even though they had such sentimental value.  It wasn’t until Lorraine, the lady who helps us clean the house, found a lone coaster in my room under a glass of ice water from the night before.  I looked at it, and suddenly was emotionally attached to it. 

I know it sounds weird, but it reminded me of all of those nights of Tripoli and “Touched by an Angel” that marked our family nights... and I remembered the sacred-ness of them even when the kids were teenagers...making time for each other and calling our drinks “cocktails”.  

It also reminded me of my Auntie Emmy who always gave us perfect gifts, ones that were so valued by our family.  Our punch bowl, my beautiful rose vase...these coasters.  I couldn’t believe I threw the whole set away just because they were old and worn out. 

I hid it under the geometric stack of the African glass ones, vowing to have it be buried with me (or cremated with me, at least). 

The coaster is a strange example of how “certain somethings” can make me tear up with joy and reminiscence and love and sadness all at once.  I guess that’s why I can be called sentimental.  It’s never really big things, like couches or tables or jewelry—it’s always something like a coaster.  I can imagine the reaction to this...a small post about a coaster that has more attached to it than I ever thought would be. 

Incidentally, the new ones started sticking to the bottom of our glasses now.  HA!!  They’re not so perfect....

My super-glued lone hold-out.

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