In September of my freshman year at the University of Delaware, I received my first package. I was ecstatic when I got the email specifying times for package pickup, at the time an oddly lonely and somewhat out of place freshman, hoping for a signal from the homeland. My Aunt Sally had sent me a coffee mug. Covering the sides of the mug were images of my home state, red rock formations, a skier swiftly making his way down a mountain side, and “Utah” written where one bottom lip meets the outside. It was from Starbucks.
There are three things one must know about my godmother and Aunt: she is one of the most perfect representations of the term “Type A”, she has a very serious relationship with the infamous, controversial, world power known as Starbucks, and biology aside, we are the two most similar members of our family. We specify every item on our Christmas lists (size, color, retailer, item number). Any remotely competitive activity will bring out a very frightening side of our personality. We don’t understand emotions. Perfectly clean houses soothe us and spontaneity makes us anxious. Despite our best judgments, we still think perfection is attainable. We live for to-do lists, control, and coffee.
Under the supervision of my greatest mentor, I was exposed to the greatness of a mermaid symbol and paper cups. As embarrassing as it may be, I find the dark wood and the plush purple chairs stylish and oddly unique, the smell of Pike Place roast coffee and heavily processed baked goods delicious. However, the thing I love most about Starbucks is getting the chance to watch my Aunt Sally order, flipping her blond hair over the shoulder opposite of her briefcase, rewarding her regular barista at the franchise near her office and repeating her specifications for Starbucks employees from southern California to Connecticut. No matter where we are in the world, the time of day or the season, she orders a venti sugar-free vanilla soy latte, no foam, extra hot.
Most days of the year, I am far from my Aunt Sally. I can’t argue with her over the most mundane of topics, I can’t get her feedback on the organization of my Google calendar or the LSATs. I can’t make lists with her or shop for all things beige and black with her. I can’t go to Starbucks with her. I am far from home and far from the comfort of familiarity.
My Aunt’s decision to send me that coffee mug in my first tumultuous month away from home demonstrates her infinite wisdom and understanding. The mug, with its depiction of the landscape I know so well and the gift card tucked inside, served as a reminder of our solidarity and similarity. I took it as a symbol of her love and pride and I have poured coffee into it everyday since. It’s a daily dose of comfort, a reminder of my favorite relative, and a perfect, eye-catching receptacle for my favorite beverage.
Home isn’t always about sleeping in your own bed or being able to eat a home cooked meal. It’s about familiarity. It’s about waking up every morning and drinking from a mug that was a gift from someone who loves you, placing an order at a coffee shop that makes you smile because it reminds you of where you came from. In number of miles and hours of travel, I am very far from home. But when I drink coffee, I don’t feel that way. Home is wherever I have a Utah coffee mug. Home is the knowledge that no matter how far I wander, I will likely be able to find a Starbucks.