Dec 4, 2008

Offspring Au Lait

Coffee People. We all know someone who is a Coffee Person. Heck, half of you good and gentle people are probably Coffee People. This post is for you.

My parents were Coffee People. Community Coffee, the drink choice of the deep south. My mom still has a little battered aluminum drip coffeepot that has made countless thousands upon thousands of cups of coffee. My father and she would be up every morning before dawn, talking quietly, eating breakfast and drinking a cup each. No more, no less. My mother might take a second cup after a few hours, after my brother and I were up and rolling around but not always. A cup in the afternoon was never frowned upon by my mother, but never too close to bedtime.

To this day on Sunday afternoons all of my mother's siblings join together during what would be tea time had we not had that Boston Tea Party thing. They've been doing this since they each moved away from home for the first time. They sit around the kitchen table and curse and argue and fight and smile and talk and reform the bonds of kinship and love that any family has especial rights to. Always with coffee as the lubricant of choice.

My mother tried to turn my brother and I to the Dark (Roasted) Side when we were youngish, but it never seemed to take. Oh, we both flirted with the Coarse Ground Goddess, but she never sank her beans into either of us. I remember trying to love her, though. Getting up on weekend mornings and finding an unadorned white ceramic mug at my breakfast plate. Coffee with a strong dash of milk in, and two heaped spoons of sugar. You'd order it from a barrista as Cafe' au lait, though we never called it that. "Coffee milk" it was called if it had to be named, which it rarely was. I drank it on weekends on the front porch with my parents, watching the morning begin. Letting my old dog lick the last mocha-tan drops out of the bottom because he knew I always left him a little of the sugar slurry, too.

It never stuck, though. In college I flirted with The Caffeinated One briefly when I was finishing my art degree. The professor kept a pot on, and I was fiercely proud of the anole mug I'd made in Ceramics. Mottled tan brown like the coffee and cream I drank from it, with a handle made to look like a lizard's slim body, its triangulate head peeking over the rim into the brown sweet goodness. When I worked for the lumber yard I kept the Community "Coffee Service" guy happy--eight to twelve pots a day I brewed, every single day. Never drank it myself, just kept the water fresh and the grounds loosely shaken into the paper filters. At Orifice Depot I drank a cup occasionally but only because my manager expected me to make sure he had a fresh pot on at 6am when we arrived to unload the day's truck. He would drink, quite literally, a pot at home before coming to work and immediately another pot at work. He carried a spun aluminum cup that was probably meant to be a serving carafe, and he drank it as the Arabs do--black as night, and as hot as hell.

Mrs. I broke down a few weeks ago and bought a coffee maker for herself, being, I thought, the only drinker in the house. It's one of the nicer ones; white and modern, with a timer so that you can have fresh brewed waiting for you in the morning. Each day I wake at 5:45, brush my teeth, make water, slip into my huge maroon robe and let Belle out of her kennel and help Penny down off the bed. We all then wander blindly into the pitch dark living room so they can go outside and perform their morning ablutions. Pitch dark, that is, except for the eerie underwater blue-green bioluminescence of the 'maker's display panel, silently counting down the last thirty minutes to Coffee Time.

A few mornings ago I was sitting at the table about to begin eating my fresh scrambled eggs and toast along with a tall tumbler of swee'tea when my daughter walked into the kitchen, already dressed for school. She rummaged in the kitchen cabinet and came down holding my Rosie The Riveter mug, the one I brought home from the office months ago after the hot tea I'd been brewing in it started staining the white ceramic. She turned to the coffee pot and poured, then added a liberal dose of powdered creamer and sugar. I could tell by the way she hunched her shoulders over and kept her head down that she was embarrassed, hoping not to draw attention to behaviour that was out of the ordinary.

I smiled to myself as I watched her go about the stirring, her being extra careful not to ding the spoon on the insides of the mug too loudly. She brought her treasure to the table and slid into her accustomed chair across the round table from me. I smiled, said good morning and went about eating, watching her without her seeing me watch as she blew and sipped her way through her cup, around forkfuls of egg and toast.

My child is growing up. Some of her behaviour she takes from me--her quiet, fast way of talking. The way she matches bites of egg with bites of toast. The way she drinks iced tea now at supper. Some ways are entirely hers, though. Drinking cafe' au lait from her dad's mug, exploring the ways of adults. No doubt my mother led her onto that path, but that morning was the first time she displayed her new habit for her father, afraid I'd call her down, tell her she was too young for the Powers of Caffeine. Naturally I didn't, just smiled and let her start to make her own way.

I don't know if she'll be Coffee People or not. Perhaps one day she'll stand proudly at a Starbucks counter and order some extraordinary drink of hot water and exotic beans, order it with the glib ease of a native drinker. Perhaps she'll turn out like me and always live just on the outskirts of The Coffee Nation, be a social drinker only, a rare visitor to those dark and exotic shores. Either way is fine with me.

As long as I can keep her from smoking cigars we'll be fine.


Gordo said...

The "National" coffee of Canada would have to be Tim Horton's. It's one of those comfort things: no matter which of 3300 locations in Canada or the US, you know you'll get decent, drinkable coffee.

I became a coffee person watchingmy parents drink their instant Maxwell House every morning. Like yours, very rarely more than one a day.

That changed in college for me. Journalism is fuelled by caffeine and it wasn't long before I was up to 4-6 or more cups a day. All day.

I still drink a couple of cups at home in the morning and one or two after I get to work, but never later than about 2:30. I like to sleep at night.

I'll bring the cigars when we come to visit. Cubans are legal here. :-D

meno said...

I don't know why, but i got a little teary about helping Penny off the bed. Old pets. They need us so.

Anyway, i am viewed with suspicion here in the Northwest because *gasp* i don't drink coffee. I love they way it smells, but the taste, not so much.

I hope you and Gordo have the chance to enjoy those cigars. Just the thought of that makes me happy.

Mona Buonanotte said...

I love the way you describe your daughter, exploring and growing up. I'm sitting here drinking my 3rd cup of coffee this morning (1 regular, 2 decaf), singing the praises of toasted beans and hot bubbling water.

On the weekends, I sometimes make myself a pot of coffee in the morning that I tap during the day. The kids (ages 12 and 8) nearly always ask me to make them a "latte"...much like your mother, milk, sugar...a warm tan paradise in a mug. Funny how that trickles down generationally.

Mona Buonanotte said...

Oh, and Gordo? We're getting more and more Tim Hortons in my neck of the woods...ain't nuthin' better than sitting in THs with a big cup of coffee and a cruller. Mmmm....

Joan of Argghh! said...

Ain't nothing wrong with a fine cigar every now and then.

I'm having one right now.


Schmoopie said...

Do not...I repeat...Do not introduce her to Pants. She'll have her smoking cigars in no time ;)

There is something so comforting in the ritual of coffee. It does run through generations.

You are a fine dad to let her "make her own way" while you sit on the side, silently cheering her on.

Mickelodeon said...

Your wee-but-growing-up lass takes coffee in the only civilized way, IMO, of course. Reading this makes me remember my own stumblings into coffee adulthood, way back when. I may take your lead and post about it.

And bioluminescence? Where do you find these words? I think that has officially become one of my favorite words ever, even though I'm far too lazy to look up its definition now and I'll be goddamned if I know how to pronounce it. =)

Haven't had enough coffee for that yet. ;-)

Irrelephant said...

Gordo, any time you care to stop in just give me a few hours notice and bring handfuls of those stogies. *grin*

meno, I realised a long time ago that when I get a pet, I'm in it for the long haul. Kind of like a marriage, only with more kibble and less verbal communication. *wink*

Mona, I think we don't take into account how MUCH we pass down generationally--my daughter watches everything I do, and I can see her pick up bits and pieces here and there to try on, then either keep or discard. It's...frightening, in a way, and very rewarding in others.

Joan, you're killin' me! I've had a cold for several days now, so tobacco is off my list. *weep*

*lmao* Schmoop, I promise I'll keep her safe! All I need is a thirteen year old puros smoking, Doc-wearing Emo on my hands.

*grin* Mix, you're more than welcome, any time. Some of my best ideas spring from other people's posts. Fertilizer for my mind, in a way. Heh.

Bioluminescence I picked up, I'm sure, from one or another excellent nature documentary about the ocean when I was a kid. Love the word myself, but then again I love the fact that some animals can make light all by themselves, no fire, no Coleman lantern, not a Maglite in sight.

More coffee!

Nancy Dancehall said...

Oh DO introduce us! I promise I'll start her out with the smallest of Havana Honeys. *wink*

Vulgar Wizard said...

Let me get this straight, then. You teach your surrogate daughter how to smoke pipes and cigars, and you keep your real daughter safe?

You sick bastard.