My parents have owned the same house for more than 25 years. When I visit, it’s like a trip back in time. I use my old pink towel. I sleep on the same Laura Ashley hearts-and-flowers bedsheets.
And every morning at breakfast, I pull my favorite glass out of the back of the kitchen cabinet and fill it with milk, just as I did when I lived there.
The glass’s exact age is hazy at this point. We think it came from a Hardee’s near our suburban Richmond home, free or discounted with a fried chicken meal. If so, it was probably the best thing we ever got from that place.
Six inches tall, three inches in diameter, the glass is covered in a snowy, vaguely Currier-and-Ives scene rendered in four colors: red, green, brown and white. A man and woman in late 19th-century-style garb ride in a horse-drawn sleigh. Spindly brown trees and snow-fringed evergreens fill the landscape. Wreaths and festive boughs festoon two red houses. Snowflakes ring the glass above the tableau.
I can’t explain why I found myself so enamored of this glass at the time we acquired it. It doesn’t make the milk taste better. It doesn’t keep the milk any colder.
Maybe it was how it felt so much like my romanticized notion of New England, a snowy Vermont village where everyone knows everyone else. Or how it reminded me of the cozy comfort of the Christmas season, even though I’m Jewish. Or how it always seemed to hold the perfect amount of milk, no matter what I was eating.
Today, though, I know its appeal. It reminds me of my childhood. Of getting ready for school (to me, this was a good thing). Of hanging out with my mom in the morning. So when I drink from it, I am engaging in a familiar ritual that ties me to the place I’ve long since left.
Certain Rules have developed around the glass. It must be used only at breakfast. The glass must contain only milk — which extends the snowy horizon, you see?
And there is an unspoken rule: I am the only one who uses the glass. Not that I would mind someone else drinking from it. I just don’t think anyone ever has.
Also, the glass should never leave my parents’ house.
Writing this valentine required transporting the thing 106 miles between their house and mine. I wanted to feel the glass in my hands and have a glamour shot taken in our photo studio, but I worried about how it could possibly arrive in one piece.
The glass is probably pushing 20 years, if not more. It has survived my clumsiness and an untold number of dishwasher cycles. It has outlived dishwashers, in fact. My parents have gone through at least two sets of glassware — not that anyone’s counting! — and still this fast-food orphan soldiers on. We have not yet discovered its Kryptonite, and I hope we never do.
You can imagine the pressure I put on my parents when I asked them to mail me the glass. But my dad’s combination of foam, bubble wrap, plastic and cardboard worked. I’ve seen children secured with less care.
I feel a disturbance in the Force, though. The glass does not belong here. Soon I’ll be back in Richmond for a visit, and I can ferry it home. Well wrapped, of course.