Coffee in the Morning

Things I love, cont’d…

So, I’m standing in the kitchen early this morning, staring blearily at the coffee maker, inhaling that intoxicating aroma while waiting for the drip-drip to fill my mug. Hot, rich, dark – a ritual that has filtered through my entire adult life.

When I teach how to write freely, I always use a “Describe the details of your morning” prompt. After the blank looks, groans and frantic scribbling, I ask the writers to examine which of the possible myriad of details they chose and which ones they didn’t bother with. That alone shows what are the important events, what are the rituals of their reality.

And I found that for me, it was always that cup of coffee.

I have a long history with coffee. For years I despised it – didn’t even like the smell. But when I was at university, all the cool people drank coffee, so I did too (black, no cream or sugar because I didn’t like the taste anyway and I clearly remembered the morning angst when my parents were out of one or the other – totally messed up their day).

Having been completely unmemorable and painfully shy in high school, I went off to university determined to be a social butterfly. So I drank coffee (and other things), dated lots of boys who bored me to tears, and had just about decided I was seriously okay with being unpopular, when I met Bobby Brown – great eyes, shy smile, not cool either. Our tentative, sort-of first date took place at Dunkin’ Donuts. He asked me what I wanted. I hesitated. He waited patiently.

“Hot chocolate,” I finally blurted out. That’s when I started to fall in love with him. His eyes didn’t even flicker. He didn’t care at all if I drank coffee; I didn’t need to be cool for him.

Fast forward into marriage. Somewhere along the line, surprisingly, I learned to like coffee – black, or with cream, or with cream and sugar. I joined the millions who grasp their mugs and wait for that shot of caffeine to start their day.

But my morning ritual had an extra gift to it. Bobby always got up early, read the paper and made the coffee. I woke up every morning to the aroma of a mug of fresh coffee on the nightstand beside me, and his voice. “Time to get up, Susan.”

Then it fell apart. He died and no one was around to start my day with caffeine and love. It took me months, literally, to figure out how to begin my day. I used instant, I went back to hot chocolate, I set up the coffee maker the night before. My grinder (the one he always liked) broke, so now I buy my brew pre-ground.

So what do we do when our dearest rituals disappear? People look at me funny when I say I had so much trouble learning how to make coffee in the morning. It isn’t worth it to explain what I really mean. I have my new morning system firmly in place now, but the ritual of it has subsided into cherished memory.

And I wonder how many other people have a deep memory or two that is evoked by the smell, taste, and warmth of a cup of coffee in the morning.