My love for coffee began during my college years. I was a late-night studier, and this form of caffeine resonated better with my mother, who once found an open package of No-Doz (the one and only package of sorts that I ever possessed) in the top drawer of my dresser when I was home during winter break. Even the thought of my mom’s reaction that day was enough to stave off any desire to try that again. If only I had such power over my children.
I was usually at Around-the-Clock (now a liquor store) or the Junction with a housemate or two, and I probably had more cream than coffee as I tried into the early morning hours to understand behavior theories and psychological “conditions.”
Still trying, by the way.
Coffee, though, soon had me in a different stronghold: one that would represent calm, peace, contentment, and even hope. I picked up a black plastic carafe at a yard sale early in the summer before I took the GRE. To ease my anxiety over the daunting prospect of this exam which could certainly predict my future, I thought about coffee. I thought about the hazelnut coffee (black…no more cream) that would fill my second hand carafe as I walked along Lincoln Highway from my downtown apartment. Suddenly, the test was not quite so scary.
It’s not just coffee; there are other things. With the birth of my third little son came some medical complications, and my mom, just days after losing her own mother, was by my side to support me and to help me get through a different kind of childbirth recovery than I had known with the older boys.
There I sat, probably on a pillow, alone at my kitchen table, made to feel better with the six or seven servings of homemade butterscotch pudding that Mom had made just for me. At age 31, I was allowed to eat right out of the Corningware serving bowl, and it was all for me. She knew how I liked it, refrigerated long enough for the top layer to be the perfect consistency, something that cannot be achieved in a snack pack. She knew. She’s my mom. She knew that if I even saw the butterscotch pudding, I would start to feel better.
I have had children who are hardly children anymore come to my door, move into my house, and become, for however long, part of our family. They have lived a lifetime with others, not with me. They have learned what they need, who they are, and what they love, before they ever came through my doors. And I have no idea if they even like butterscotch pudding, much less if they like the homemade sort with the top layer or the grocery store brand.
I can still imagine the good coffee smell that would linger on my winter coat for hours after I left the Chocolate Moon. And I loved that coat, with the soft fake fur trim (the sales person promised that it was, indeed, fake fur) on the hood…until I discovered a tag, deep in the lining that stated boldly as if it were announcing a Broadway show: “FOX FUR.” I never again felt the same way about that coat. I took it to a tailor who removed the fox fur, but it just didn’t seem comfortable anymore. Even when it had the lingering smell of good coffee, it wasn’t the same.
The Chocolate Moon closed it’s doors, and there has never been another coffee shop that held even close to the same charm.
My child got into an altercation with someone, and I found out days later. So many times I have tried explaining away behaviors, trying to enlighten others about trauma theory and how these behaviors have meaning. “The past is in the past…today is now…,” I was told as I shared my thoughts on why this incident may have happened. But that cannot be true.
We are the collective of our own lives. We are coffee, butterscotch pudding, and the Chocolate Moon. We are what others have been to us. We mustn’t forget that we all have a story, a long story, a mostly good story…our story. And that’s the story we are supposed to have, fox fur and all.
I don’t have the old carafe anymore, and I have learned to love a good breakfast blend at home with my Mr. Coffee. I could still eat at least half a dozen servings of butterscotch pudding, but only if my mom makes it for me.