My hands were too full.
It had been 11 years since we had visited Stanley Pottery, in that cottage-like house, nestled in the woods, in Breadalbane, Prince Edward Island. Hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists had been through the workshop and store since we last stopped by.
And yet, Malcolm Stanley said he remembered us. And despite the fact that my head told me that he said that to anybody who mentioned that it wasn't their first visit, my heart wanted to believe those eyes that smiled and the gentle voice that said, "Welcome back. I see you have a couple of additions to your family," the artist acknowledging our two kids, aged three and five. He nodded, when we told him that we still have the wine goblets that we purchased, in 1995.
My wife and I were looking for coffee mugs: something that we would use every day and would make us think of the red sands of this island province. As soon as I saw the tall pines over the red earth, the warm tones of the mug, I knew I wanted it. The price was more than I would usually spend for something to hold my favourite hot beverage, but I was purchasing more than the mug: I was investing in the memories and the kindness of Mr. Stanley.
Lori bought a similar mug—no two pieces were identical. We also acquired a tall, clay water jug, all of the pieces bearing the similar trees and soil.
The mug has been a favourite of mine for almost nine years. I keep it at work, where I fill it countless times. I have often thought, if I should ever break it, I would be heartbroken. But I would absolutely return to the pottery shop in PEI and replace it.
My hands were full: several lunch containers, destined for the communal refrigerator; a case of Girl Guide cookies, the second one that I planned to sell for my daughter, who would have been only three, when I purchased the mug.
I quickly set the case of cookies in a prominent spot in the kitchen. Usually, chips, chocolate bars, and gum would line a shelf, but the social committee hadn't restocked in more than a week. They would be an easy sale for those looking for a snack.
I had one free hand, with which I opened the fridge. The other held a container with a salad, and another container, with a ham and cheese sandwich. I had also carried a muffin container, which I had meant to leave at my desk, with which I would enjoy with the coffee that I would put in my mug.
As I held the door open, I balanced the containers and mug, and adjusted them on one of the fridge shelves. Because there were many lunch containers already filling space, I had to fumble as I found a spot.
That's when the mug slipped from my fingers.
There are certain things that we visualize in slow motion, most of which are some form of accident. It somehow seems that the faster me move, the slower we play it back in our minds.
My right hand still held the fridge door handle, and was blocked by the door. My left hand was still placing my lunch on the shelf. I had only one action that I could take, and before I could even move, I prepared myself for the horror, got ready to say goodbye to my beloved mug.
Balancing on my left foot, I swung my right leg sideways, and caught the mug on the edge of my shoe, near the ankle. In a motion I remembered from the one time in my life where I played hacky sack, I kicked the mug upwards as I swiftly shoved the containers into place.
I could see the mug move straight up, and for a moment, the pine trees and red sand seemed to freeze, the mug stopped in motion. The range of its upward ascent had reached its limit, at eye level.
With my left hand, now free, I snatched at the mug, but came at it in an upwards but diagonal motion, and I seemingly swatted the object away. I let go of the fridge door, raised my right hand, and caught the mug with a secure grip.
With a pounding heart, I inspected my mug, made sure that there were no chips or cracks caused by being kicked. It was fine, had escaped an untimely demise. I retrieved the muffin container, which was on the top of my lunch stack, and proceeded to make myself a coffee.
In my rescued mug.
That return trip to Stanley Pottery will have to wait. I wonder if he'll remember us again.