Coaster

[This post is a part of the Letters to an Adopted Child series. Read the series preface here.]

Once a year, the local community enveloping my college campus held a town-wide garage sale day. This was a very popular event for us students, since it enabled us to fill our dorms with all the furniture, clothing, or electronics we couldn’t afford to buy from Walmart. People found decades-old TVs, worn-out couches with mysterious stains, and antiquated sports jerseys. During my first year of college, I foraged many Tupperware bins on plastic fold-out tables, but not in search for video games, iPods, or watches—I was looking for a set of coasters.

I thought I had come to college prepared. I had a Keurig coffee machine (which drains one mug’s worth of water through a sealed pouch of coffee grounds and dispenses it into the the mouth of whatever is sitting below), a stuffed box of sealed pouches, access to water via the drinking fountain in the lobby or the sink in the bathroom, a full tub of vanilla creamer in my mini-fridge, and a unique set of coffee mugs. Yet, when my made my first cup, I was struck with an internal crises: where was I to place the coffee mug?

Was I supposed to put it on my desk, where it would stain the wood with a faint circle, leaving me to pay a fine at the end of the year? No. I needed to buy a coaster.

Functionally, I could have used many other things to solve my problem—a t-shirt, a folded-up paper towel for our kitchenette. One time, recent to my writing of this entry, I mistook a candle lid for a coaster while visiting some friends. Mom called out my mistake, we all laughed, and the host said, “It works just as well!” In my mind, however, there is great need to use things according to their primary purpose. Coasters exist primarily (and solely) to hold up coffee mugs and glasses of water, and so that’s what I will use.

Not putting anything in a coaster’s place, even if the cup won’t leave a stain, leaves the moment imperfect and suspect, like when a man enters the grocery store in his bare feet. And sliding something that has a different primary purpose—a paper towel, a t-shirt—displays an acceptable but eye-catching lack of composure, a lack of readiness, much like having to write the final paragraph of a school essay in blue ink after your black pen ran dry.

A coaster ingratiates the liquid-filled mug into civilized society. The coaster is a portable declaration of acceptance, allowing the mug unquestioned access into the special moments and places of life it never would never have witnessed on its own. Like, for example, my dorm room desk, watching me as I read my now favorite books for the very first time.