Growing up, my mom always drank coffee: black, no sugar, no milk or cream. I have an indelible image of her sitting at our kitchen table in the mornings with a cup of coffee, reading her Newsweek, monosyllabic until she had some caffeine in her. As a child, I never much cared for the smell and I certainly didn’t like how mom smelled when she kissed my cheek as I was leaving for school. “Yuck!” I would say and then she would chuckle. Fast forward, years passed and things changed and I finally got “it” when I was in high school. It was then became a life-long coffee club member or, ah, addict of sorts and a whole new world opened up. I also understood why people had coffee, and how it was an individual or social thing. For me, coffee was, and is, equally practical and sentimental.
In high school, my friends and I would sit for hours at Denny’s and order cup after cup of coffee on Friday nights because we didn’t party or go clubbing. This was our fun in the Midwest. By then, I had become a full on coffee drinker. Black, no sugar or milk. But, unlike my mom, I loved my coffee very strong. Or, as she has come to say, “Strong enough to clean tar off tires.” (Sorry mom!) During college, coffee was a must when studying and obviously by then it had become ritual in the mornings. When I would visit home, I looked forward to having morning coffee with my mom (and, it still is). Grad school came and I moved to Milwaukee, more coffee, especially for those evening round table classes. By then, I noticed that I had started to accumulate several coffee mugs, a collection, if you will, each with their own memory attached to it. My mom and I buy mugs for each other and have so many that we have to rotate them in and out of our kitchen cupboards. My dad teases my mom and tells her that he’s going to have to build her a cabinet to store all her mugs in the basement. I think my favorite mug is my Wall Drug mug she bought me in South Dakota. It’s a significant and sturdy diner type mug. Then there’s the giant “Hello, is it tea you’re looking for” mug with a picture of Lionel Richie that my dear friend Mary bought for me. There are seasonal mugs, like the Waechtersbach Christmas mugs each with their own Peanuts cartoon character on them. I also have the two mugs that my Grandma Kelley and I drank evening coffee out of. I haven’t been able to bring myself to use those ever because they were ours and I miss her dearly.
For the past several years, afternoon coffee has entered the picture and I’ve recently started using half and half (afternoons only) in my coffee. It’s a necessary jolt to combat work sleepiness, or, if I’m out wandering around the city, why not enjoy a hot cup or, an iced latte? It’s a nice accompaniment to an afternoon.
There’s something about sitting in the quiet stillness of the morning, before anyone else is up and having a cup of coffee before going running or before work. Total silence, waking up…I just love it. Sometimes, my mom will text me a picture of her coffee mug and I’ll do the same (strangely enough she *just* texted me a picture of her coffee in a mug that I bought for her from Fishs Eddy. I think she must have esp or something!). So, we have coffee virtually together, which is nice and makes me feel not so alone in Brooklyn. When I go home to see my parents I enjoy walking into the kitchen, seeing mom at the table with her cup of coffee and magazine or, more likely now with her iPhone, making her next move in our Words with Friends game. I pour myself a cup and sit down next to her, and it’s perfect.