One Wednesday afternoon in the spring of 2000 I arrived at my basement office in the student ministries department at Grace Community Church. I had recently taken the reigns as the Junior High Pastor and one of the students, desiring to encourage me, gifted me with a chilled Mocha Frappuccino bottle from Starbucks. I talked a lot about Starbucks in those days, especially my affection for venti caramel macchiatos. A friend of mine, Doug Main, the previous Junior High Pastor, discipled me in the ways and I followed the calorie laden path.
I assume that “Starbucks” is all that this well-intending Junior High guy heard me say, so anything with a Starbucks sticker on it applied. His gift was as thoughtful as it was inattentive.
Not one to let good deeds go unrewarded, I paraded my gift and the giver in front of all the students and staff at the beginning of that night’s meeting. I think I said something such as, “Look how much this guy loves me!” I expressed my public gratitude and we moved on.
I had never consumed a bottled frappuccino before. I had no idea if it was tasty. I simply appreciated the present. Later that night when I drank it down, I decided that it was good but not so good that I needed to purchase more for myself. As it turns out I didn’t have to.
Over the next year and a half, for holidays and birthdays and miscellaneous occasions of “thanks,” bottles of frappuccinos were bestowed to me. Whether by single bottle or by four pack or by twelve pack, the gracious people brought me more mocha.
I don’t remember why. I don’t recall having a plan. Yet for some reason I kept that first empty bottle, rinsed it, and displayed it prominently on the top of my wall-filling bookshelf. Then my collection grew week by week.
The row became quite a discussion starter for visitors to my office (including preparation concerns for possible Southern California earthquakes). It also became a palpable way for others to gift me and almost became a competition among the students to get the line to the other wall. Once in a while a student brought me an already empty bottle but mostly they let me drink them before going on the shelf.
My mother-in-law wrapped every last bottle in its own packing paper when I moved to Washington State in the summer of 2001. I hadn’t decided whether I would display them in my new office at Grace Bible Church or not. After a few days, Mo felt like unboxing the bottles would make the north feel more like home, so I did.
The collection grew slowly over the next few years. On a few occasions the Women’s Ministry borrowed fifty or so for use as centerpiece vases at different events or retreats. Those bottles were never cleaner.
When I left the second Grace I packed the bottles again and brought them home. Not only was there no compelling reason to display them, there also was no space to do so. I figured that eventually I would take a picture of them before sending them off to the happy recycling place in the sky.
Those precious bottles were in a box in our garage for the last sixteen months until Monday. The sun was shining and I thought the time seemed right to finally finish the to-do.
It was going to be a glorious picture.
The base row had 35 bottles. I was almost finished with the fifth row on the pyramid when the wind knocked over a good many layers. The glass was no match for our driveway. Undaunted I began to build again, emptying the boxes and snatching unbroken bottles from the pile. I’m not sure how far I got in the second stacking but the wind got the better of us.
It was disappointing. And funny. I was going to recycle them after the glory picture anyway and instead recycled them after the guts picture. My best count among the shards was 251 (though I do have record of 271 in March of 2009). They’re gone now but the story lives on.