Friday, July 12, 2013

Sacred Grounds

My mother had one absolute unquestionable rule that was only broken once a year on Christmas.  We knew as children that most rules had exceptions and that we could push a little or lot to test them, but not this one.

I do not remember ever questioning this rule or crying about this rule. I am sure I did, and whatever happened was so traumatic that I blocked it out forever.  I am sure crossing my mother before coffee was so terrible that I do not  want to recover that memory in therapy, thank you very much.

My mother is the sweetest, kindest person I know, but everyone gives her a wide berth before that first pot of coffee is brewed to this day. (I am 39 and still lay low when I visit.)

I am less harsh than my own mother, but they know that I have a limited tolerance for "Mama Get me.. Mama give me... Mama he's bothering me!" before I have coffee.

Before you call child protective services, I only say the second sentence in my head. 

I was the last one in my family of origin to take to coffee.  Coffee is the blood that runs through my mother's veins, and my brother's chosen vehicle to transition from teen to adult.  My family history is peppered with tales of coffee shops and late night coffee-fueled conversations around the kitchen table.  Every childhood morning stated with the sound of the percolator and the smell of coffee.

I used to take sips of my mother's coffee - the long cold last 1/4 inch in the bottom of the cup - and wonder how anyone could drink the stuff.  I used to pour milk into my mom's coffee and watch the white swirl into the black until it was the perfect almost-caramel color. I couldn't wait until I magically developed a taste for it. 

I can trace my family through the coffee pot; late night talks between my mother an grandmother around the coffee pot, years before I was born; my brother sitting with his friends in a coffee shop in high school, stirring in so much sugar he left a thick sludge at the bottom of every cup; my step-mother insisting she needed her coffee with almond milk, or soy milk, or anything else uncommon and difficult to come by.

Friends, too, are known by their coffee; HP's heavy Spanish coffee with a lot of milk and sugar, BFF's favorite mocha latte. I was late to drinking coffee - not until I was thirty-five did I care for it, and I gulp it down black and hot but not so hot it burns my esophagus. 

I chose to drink it black because I knew I could never reliably have filters and coffee and milk and sugar all in sufficient quantity every day.  If I was going to drink coffee, it needed to be not too difficult.  At first, I refused to measure, insisting that eyeballing the pile of grounds was sufficient. I would pour from the bag directly into the filter until it looked like "enough."  Sometimes it was, and something it wasn't, and sometimes it was too much.  Back in my early days I would microwave the same pot of coffee for days in a row, not being able to taste the difference, but now I have grown into a more discriminating drinker. 

My church has a whole coffee ritual - coffee hour - that some consider more important than the service.  We even have a hymn about it:

It wasn't until I was in high school and visited a Catholic church that I realized those weren't the real words.  My whole family sings the first verse every morning in the kitchen when we are together. It's gone from silly to a tradition, and someday when my mother is drinking coffee in some other dimension, I am sure my brother and I will cry over "The Coffee Song" more than any other.

To this day, I can not make coffee without thinking of my mother.  Coffee - more lasting than guilt! But I am grateful for this; every sip a connection to every other mother out there, trying not to kill their children as they brew their first pot of the day. Coffee- the lifeblood of mothering.

1 comment:

  1. I love it!!! I love it!!! It's absolutely so true!


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