I began to drink coffee in 8th grade at my neighbor Tish’s house. Tish is from Mississippi – which, on Orcas Island, WA, automatically makes a person unique. She is one of those people who loves everybody as if they deserved it, and makes you feel special simply for being you. She drank her coffee with brown sugar and served it in heavy pottery mugs. Whenever I see mugs like that I immediately “see” her tall kitchen stools at her heavy butcher-block table and smell sea-scented air, log cabin and lolloping Black Lab. I felt infinitely grown-up sitting there, chatting away with Tish, holding that huge mug of cozy goodness – which, inexplicably, I drank black.
When I left the island I left coffee behind for a few years and when I picked the habit up again in college my tastes had changed. No longer could I take it straight and bitter, now I wanted it mixed with hot chocolate or cream. LOTS of cream. (But never hazelnut creamer anymore, thank you very much, because somewhere in there I OD’d on it and I haven’t touched the stuff since. I am a fan of Nutella, though – who isn’t?)
I actually did have one coffee moment in high school, from whence cometh my need for so much cream. I was with my mom in Paris, on a Spring Break trip from Berlin, and we ordered espresso and it came in those adorable little demitasse cups that no girl who ever played house as a child could resist. I took one sip from that tiny cup – feeling sophisticated in my pink Nikes and green Benetton sweatshirt – and I think I refrained from spitting it all over my mother, but I’m not entirely certain.
It was vile. I was scarred for life by that tiny cup of French coffee.
But my favorite coffee moment came after college. I met my husband at Covenant Park Bible Camp, in northern(ish) Minnesota. I was the Program Director and he was the Maintenance Director. (That pretty much sums up our marriage duties today as well.) One morning at breakfast in the Dining Hall, my mother (who was the speaker that week) saw Colin drinking coffee. Mom knew – though I think she was still in denial as to the real reason – that I talked about Colin inordinately more than the other staff members I worked with. She had never met this young man, however, so when we found ourselves right beside him (“How did that happen? Huh.”) I casually said, “Mom, this is Colin.” And my mother – bless her heart – said to Colin, “Oh, I see you drink coffee, too.” And she held up her mug, indicating that they were in the same coffee-drinking club together. “Joe-drinkers Anonymous” perhaps, as if this was an exclusive club, a rare and wonderful thing to find a fellow coffee drinker.
I don’t mean to poke fun. I’m sure she was feeling nervous about meeting this, her last daughter’s first real beau, but it just was so funny. So Mom.
“I see you drink coffee, too,” Colin and I will say to each other from time to time over our steaming mugs and we smile and I get goose bumps, because that memory is part of what makes us a family. Coffee – black, sweet, or cream-colored – is intricately connected with the things that bring me joy.
Including writing, here in this coffee shop.
What’s your favorite coffee memory?