A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Name: Tom McLaughlin
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
I didn’t want to bother St. Anthony to help me look for my coffee mug. For two days it was lost and I thought I looked everywhere, but then I found it so obviously I hadn’t. It’s a “Big Apple” mug — red plastic with a black cover and it fits well in my hand. It also fits in the cup holders of both my truck and car and it’s an important part of my life. My hand knows right where to go for a sip without my brain having to instruct it.
“Big Apple” has nothing to do with New York City lest readers from places outside Maine get that impression. It’s the name given to a chain of convenience stores in Maine and New Hampshire begun by the CN Brown Heating Oil Company way back in the twentieth century. Carleton N. Brown, for whom the company is named, lived on Christian Hill Road where I live now and I knew his daughter, Susie. Her daughter and my three were playmates, but that association has little to do with my attachment to that coffee mug. Like I said, it fits in my hand nicely. It’s comfortable. There’s a place on the rim of its black cover that melted in the dishwasher drying cycle sometime in the 90s and my thumb goes there automatically when I drink from it. I don’t have that dishwasher anymore — brought it to the Lovell dump years ago — but I still have the mug.
Everyone knows LL Bean is a Maine-based store. Smaller, but also unique to Maine are Reny's Department Stores and Big Apple Stores. I have an even older Big Apple mug that I keep at our South Portland house. It’s also red and black, but has a more uniform shape — made in the days before vehicles came with cup holders. It’s shorter, without that narrow part moulded into the bottom to fit cup holders. It fit on the dashboard of three different pickup trucks I drove back then, but not in the cup holders of my present vehicles. I use it only for afternoon tea which I tend to drink in the house or out on the deck. I also have a newer-vintage Big Apple mug down there for morning coffee and for traveling. I used to have about ten of them, but now I'm down to three.
All of them fit under the new Keurig machines we have in both houses too. I like my coffee dark while my wife likes hers medium, and since I was always up first to make the coffee when we had one of those old coffeemakers, I brewed it dark. “You can put more cream in yours,” I’d suggest to her, but she went out and bought those Keurigs. Each cup tends to be more expensive, but we get it the way we like it: Green Mountain Dark Magic for me and Dunkin Donuts for her. They’re extravagant, I know, but coffee is important. I have three mugfuls in the morning. Then it’s one cup of tea in the afternoon, a glass of red wine with dinner and another for dessert.
When getting my twice-a-year teeth cleaning, Amy, my hygienist asks me if I drink coffee, tea or red wine, which stain teeth. “Yes,” I respond, “All three, and I have no intention of stopping any, ever.”
But back to St. Anthony. My wife nearly always suggests a prayer to him when I lose something because he’s the patron saint of lost things, she says. I’m not a true believer in that stuff but I have to admit, two valuable items I thought were gone forever turned up after she prayed to him. One was my first pair of prescription glasses.
We were on our boat in Kezar Lake and we pulled up onto a remote beach for a swim. I took off my glasses with their red lanyard and put them on the bow before diving in, but didn’t put them back on when we left. Later, when I noticed they were missing, I remembered where I’d left them and figured they were at the bottom in upper bay, which is the deepest part — over 160 feet. I imagined they bounced off the bow as we raced back to the marina over choppy water. For the next two weeks I wore old drugstore glasses and made another appointment with the optometrist. Each time I complained about them, my wife offered up another prayer. Then I was out for a boat ride with a client/friend and asked him to go over close to that beach. There they were with their red lanyard on the sandy bottom in about three feet of water.
While loading a pile of brush into my truck last summer, I swatted a bug near my ear and knocked one of my tiny hearing aids into the brush pile I was standing in. I had paid $5600 for both a year before, so I carefully examined every limb I loaded, but couldn’t find it. My wife again suggested St. Anthony, but again I was skeptical. She went with me to unload at the dump, and together we examined each limb carefully as we offloaded — and suddenly there on the tailgate was my $2800 hearing aid.