Saturday, November 19, 2016

My Cup of Coffee: Habit, Tradition or Reflection?

Who doesn’t like a cup of coffee? I know, not everyone does, like my sister. She’s a tea drinker. Actually I do enjoy tea, but I love my coffee. Thank goodness when we visit my family in North Carolina, I have a kindred java-spirit in my brother-in-law!
  
Sometimes I think I should give it up because I can’t drink it without cream and sugar. I did drink it black for a phase, a very short phase. I’ve also given it up for lent and a detox-cleanse. Believe it or not I once gave it up for a year! So like, what’s the deal? Why bother drinking it? I know, duh, dumb question!  
 
HKBC coffee mug
Because then a brisk fall or chilled winter morning comes and our living room, a porch or the mountains invite a steaming hot cup of fresh coffee where I can warm my hands around the mug. Or a friend invites me for a short three hour chat over coffee at Panera’s, or the hot summer beckons a tall iced coffee!
 
But why do I have this on again off again love hate struggle about giving it up? I don’t really know other than it got me thinking one day about my first cup of coffee.
  
During study hall in the cafeteria at Newtown High, I sat at a lunch table with a small group of friends near the back of the cafeteria which was lined with windows and a door that opened onto the patio. Making the most of our time to study, I utilized my budding secretarial skills by keeping track of the poker game scores.
 
My friend Brett got a cup of coffee from the caf kitchen and I wanted to taste it so he went back and got one for me.
 
 The black coffee came in a white styrofoam cup.
As was my habit with most foods, I looked at it then smelled it before taking my first sip. Immediately I scrunched my nose at the bitter taste and said, “How could anyone drink this stuff? Yuck!” 
 
But because my friend and the other guys were boys, I wasn’t about to sound like a wimpy girl so I sat up straight and drank it.

Shortly after that a classmate named Michelle and I found a common interest so we hung out a few times. It felt so adult-like when she invited me to her home for a cup of morning brew. I shared how I wasn’t crazy about it's bitter taste. Her sweetness said, “Let me make you real coffee, I think you’ll enjoy this.” She moved nonchalantly through the kitchen and poured coffee beans into a grinder. I'd never seen coffee made this way so I asked what she was doing. She said, “I’m making you fresh coffee.” The aroma of ground up beans filled my nostrils in a pleasing way. When I had my first cup of fresh ground coffee with cream and sugar, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. 
 
As I continued to reflect on my tradition or habit, it occurred to me that I started drinking coffee a very long time ago. When I did the math I realized my daily habit became a 36-year-long-day. Wow, that’s a long time! Maybe I’m in denial of my coffee addiction. Wait…did I say that word? Who said I’m addicted? Well, duh, there is an element of addiction to coffee, but that’s not the point of this story.
 
I got to thinking, is the on again off again love hate struggle with coffee or with a reflection of memory? 
 
I wasn’t crazy about my first bitter taste of hot black liquid but I was crazy about those friends I sat with. They were kind to me, respected me and treated me alright. When I was in high school my home life was at its worst filled with daily tension and chaos. Nothing was peaceful or calm. I’d been beaten, ran away, called DCYF. It was just a stupid cup of coffee and a penny ante poker game, but it was a cafeteria table during a quiet study hall that was safe and warm and filled with peace, even if it was only for 43 minutes.
 
My friend Michelle and I hardly saw each other. Only when I got a little older did I realize why we were drawn to each other. I had thought she was so cool but I had no idea how much pain she was really in. Oh sure we had shared a little about our wounds with each other, but as a teenager, I had yet to grasp the heft of either of our situations. Our broken home lives were what we had in common. Somewhere in the blur of our turmoil’s she gave me her crucifix then moved west. Other than the one letter I received from her, our paths never crossed again.
 
To this day if I grind my beans or walk down the aisle in the grocery store and smell that fresh ground coffee, I remember Michelle’s cluttered kitchen with big windows, her big brown eyes as she smiled through her brown wavy hair and the big casual shirt she wore that slightly slid off one shoulder.
 
 
 
 
We took our mugs up the old staircase to their sitting room in their vintage home where we sat on plush chairs and drank our coffee. And no matter how hard I try, to this day I can't seem to recreate her first cup of freshness.
 
 
 
 
And Brett? Well I hated that first bitter taste at study hall, but I remember the one and only time when we both dressed up and he treated me to dinner as a friend.

 
 Maybe he caught wind of my home life, I don’t know, but he gave me a gift when he said over our meal, “You’re one of the few girls I know who’s a lady.” 
 
So when I thought of my first cup of coffee and the love hate struggle to give it up I wondered:
 
 

 
 
 
 
  
 
If I stopped coffee, got rid of the crucifix and threw out the poker game scores would I be throwing out a moment in time?
 
Would I lose sight of Michelle’s sweetness before she moved away?
 
Would I lose what I have left of Brett’s memory before he died in a tragic car accident when we all just turned twenty?
 
I know it all sounds silly, but I had to ask myself, what drives my struggle; the coffee or my reflection of those dear dear friends?
  
Of course if I stop drinking I won’t forget my friends, but perhaps if I let go of the emotional hold connected with my java, I might be able to take it or leave it one day...the coffee that is. 
 
Do you remember your first cup of coffee?
 
Is it just a cup of coffee or a cup steeped in a habit or tradition?



DEFINITION OF: Tradition,  Habit, Reflection, Unravel:
 
 Tradition:
  • the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way. Synonyms: historic convention, unwritten law, oral history, lore, folklore
Habit:
  • a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. Synonyms: custom, practice, routine, wont, pattern, convention, way, norm, tradition, matter of course, rule, usage
Reflection:
  • serious thought or consideration.

 Unravel: 
  • undo (twisted, knitted, or woven threads). Synonyms: untangle, disentangle, separate out, unwind, untwist, unsnarl, unthread
  • investigate and solve or explain (something complicated or puzzling). Synonyms: solve, resolve, clear up, puzzle out, unscramble, get to the bottom of, explain, clarify, make head(s) or tail(s) of;


7 comments :

Anonymous said...

keep writing-when's your book coming out????
You have a gift!

Anonymous said...

From HKBC 1.5
Well I gotta say this is one of your best blogs, IMHO. I love the warmth of your memories - so loving and respectful. Keep writing, and what the heck, keep drinking the coffee!! What will happen to the HKBC conglomerate if you stop? :-)

Tammy Sue Willey said...

Dear Anonymous, If my book is done by spring I'm gonna cry. I swear God and my editor are trying to kill me! Thank you for your words of encouragement!!!!

Tammy Sue Willey said...

Dear HKBC 1.5, Your words mean a lot to me as I know you like the human interest stories. And for the love of coffee, how could I break up the HKBC club???? Wait, I mean...love of the HKBC club why would I stop coffee??? Maybe I should read my own blog :-)

Tammy Sue Willey said...

From Carol Rodd - Novembet 21, 2016
You have powerful words my dear lady.... Love the way you write. The tenderness, meaningful words draw me to reading every single word and what they mean! Love you tender lady!

Tammy Sue Willey said...

From Linda Loegel - November 21, 2016
You have a great way of giving deep meaning to something as common as a cup of coffee! Keep up your writing, don't stop when your book is published. You have much to tell the world.

Tammy Sue Willey said...

From Carol Anderson - November 20, 2016
Nice read TSW! Thoughtful. .. We love our coffee too!