My grandfather didn’t ask me if I wanted coffee. He asked if I took cream or sugar.
“Both” I replied.
Thus began a lifelong love affair with coffee.
My mother and I arrived at my grandparents’ house … early.
I was only three and a half and hated getting out of bed to jump into a cold car to be “babysat” all day. Even the blanket and pillow in the back seat didn’t appease me. Nonetheless, my mother worked, so I dealt with it. The only thing that perked me up was the knowledge that once we arrived at my grandparents’ house, my coffee was waiting. The best part is that I was treated as if I were one of them. As far as I was concerned, that was understood.
My first experience with coffee was at their table.
My grandmother had placed a telephone book on my chair to help me see over the edge of the table. Once in place, my grandfather poured some hot coffee out of his cup into a saucer to cool. When it was time, he turned my cup over and poured in the good smelling, warm beverage. He didn’t ask IF I wanted coffee. He asked if I wanted cream or sugar. And I replied, “Both”. Drinking coffee was a given, not an option. I grabbed my spoon, found the sugar, and began the accent into the start of a lifetime love of coffee.
I was connected with my grandparents in a way that can’t be described. You might say they were my first “grown up” friends.
You see, coffee, for my family, has nothing to do with caffeine. It has everything to do with relationship. There are a few coke and tea drinkers in our DNA that haven’t been converted yet, but as long as they pull up a chair and don’t criticize our brew, they’re welcome at our table.
When we were kids, my brother and I went to work with my dad on Saturdays. Afterwards, we stopped by the coffee shop in the same plaza where his shop was and got something to go. We sipped on coffee while we waited. It was a staple in our lives.
At one point, my dad had a job downtown and, having only one car, my mother and I would pick him up late at night. We girls would window shop while waiting on him to get off work. Afterwards, we turned the corner and pulled into Krispy Kreme for coffee and doughnuts. My dad worked a lot when I was young, so he took the opportunity for any family time he could squeeze out of the day. It seems that stirring a spoon around in a cup, silently sipping the first taste of the brew, had a way of unwinding the day.
Later, when my beloved grandfather died, the whole family sat silently around the table, cup in hand, and before long, we were laughing and telling stories of our lives with him; he always made us laugh. He was a real character!
It seems all the men in my family are characters. But none more than my father…
In the 1960’s, my father was once a “feminist bride’s maid” in a play called A Womanless Wedding. It was a fundraiser for my school PTA. My father was a part of the bridal party complete with my mother’s black wig, round dangling earrings, a red mini skirt, high heels and fishnet stockings (garter and belt included).
As he took slow, careful steps up the stairs to join the procession, my dad began to ad lib. He reached behind him, pulled up the back of his skirt…and scratched.
And the house roared. In those days, the gym was used for PTA meetings and special events. The refreshments of cake and coffee were at the back of the gym. Even though I was trying to hide my face from embarrassment as I slid down into my seat, I had to smile as the aroma of coffee drifted throughout the air.
The smell of coffee and good times always managed to complement an uncommon recollection that would be forever seared into my memory. F-O-R-E-V-E-R.
During my tumultuous teen years when my dad and I couldn’t agree on anything, we had only one place of common ground. And it kept us connected no matter what happened. After the punishment had been meted out and we were on the other side of an argument, my dad was always anxious to make things right. He’d grab his jacket and ask if I wanted to go to the store. Of course, on the way home, we’d stop into the Waffle House for a cup of coffee and talk about ANYTHING but what had just transpired.
My dad taught me about unconditional love over a cup of coffee.
When I was dating my future husband, I was nervous meeting his parents. When I walked in, they did the formal greetings and then told me to grab a cup. I felt a big sigh of relief that I was marrying into a coffee drinking family. I’m not sure if my parents would have approved otherwise.
Later on, while raising kids of my own, coffee was always on the menu while talking with my “mommy friends”. When my girls got older, they would drop by my friend Debbie’s house on the way home from school. They babysat for her kids, but I found out later on that there was an ulterior motive to going by so often. She would put on a pot of coffee and let them vent about me. Before the conversation was over, forgiveness and understanding ruled the day, as coffee and chit chat had a calming effect on my teen-aged daughters. At least until the next misunderstanding of how terrible teenagers have it living under my roof.
It seems every event or person that has made a difference in my life has always managed to involve a cup of coffee.
Today, I’m a grandmother and continue to carry on the tradition. A few summers ago, I was helping a friend who was campaigning for a school board position and my granddaughter, Chloe, rode along with us. On a particularly trying day, my friend Gwen and I were discussing the slow morning, and I’m sure the frustration showed. From the back seat, my granddaughter came up with the perfect solution. She said,
“Sounds to me like you ladies need some coffee.”
Naturally, We heeded her wise advice without hesitation.
When it’s my birthday, the grandchildren ask what I want and, of course, I suggest they tell their parents that I want gift cards.
They know what kind.
When my birthday rolls around, the grandkids smile and wink as they hand me Starbucks gift cards because they know a little secret.
They know they’re invited to tag along when I spend them.
This is dedicated to all the father’s in my life who showed me that the best criterion for great companionship is to start with something that requires cream and sugar and lots of love.
Last year, the Father’s Day column was dedicated to my dad. Please go take a gander at it if you get a minute. He’s a very unforgettable and lovable character. Click on the link: I Was Raised By An Opinionated Southern Gentleman…
Happy Father’s Day!