Anyone who knows me will not be terribly surprised by my choice for today’s letter. I have been drinking coffee since my parents first allowed me to sip the magic elixir when I was 16 years old. They were great parents (still are, actually – Hi Mom and Dad!), and didn’t believe that children really needed to be revved up on caffeine. Especially their own four very active darlings! WoooWheee!
So, I tasted coffee for the very first time, and I have to admit that the fragrance and the flavor didn’t quite match. What is it about the heady perfume of brewing coffee? Why does that ethereal scent become just a touch bitter, a mite harsh when mixed with water and heat?
No matter – I tasted, then sipped, then guzzled the wonderful stuff. And soon I discovered that coffee is the perfect beverage for all occasions.
It used to calm me at the end of the day. Really it did. After my young son would be asleep for the night, I’d tidy up the house, make a list for the next day, and climb into a big four poster bed with plenty to read and a big cup of steaming Joe.
Whenever I didn’t want to drink alcoholic anything, but still went to parties or bars with friends, coffee was readily available and quite often free, since I was assumed to be everyone’s designated driver.
After smoking cigarettes – and quitting cigarettes – for years, I finally ‘kicked the habit’, in part, by drinking endless glasses of water and slowly slipping a comforting cup of fresh coffee instead of lighting up.
When I worked for a local publication in the late 80s, part of my job was to take the flats (the laid out, waxed-back pages, ready to be photographed by the press …. but that’s another story for another time) to the printer about 200 miles away. One day there was a backlog at the press and I was uncharacteristically late, so the run wasn’t finished until nearly midnight. I had been awake since 2:00 AM that morning, and by the time the completed magazines were loaded into the van, I could barely keep my eyes open – and still had to drive more than three hours to the office before starting for home, bed, and sleep.
About halfway back to the office, my eyes began to glaze over and the cargo van felt very fluid and easy, as if it was gliding on its own. I was roused from this half-sleep only when I began to dream about my son on a train and realized I was sleep-driving. I was terrified to know how slippery the slope was from awake to asleep at 70 miles per hour in the middle of the night.
My Thermos of coffee had run out miles earlier, but I grabbed the oversized coffee mug Nick had given me for my birthday and wedged it between the top of the dash and the windshield.
For the rest of the drive, I looked to that mug for strength just to keep my eyes open, my brain at least a little alert. I had lengthy conversations with my son out loud. I sang songs at the top of my lungs about coffee, about the Kids on the Roof, about anything – always glancing at, often touching that empty coffee mug that represented the person I love most. Knowing that I had to stay awake to stay alive to get home to my child.
Hmmm …so what began as a blog post about coffee became a memory of the power of love – poured into an oversized, ivory colored coffee mug.
Thank you, Nick – again and always.