“I can’t do coffee, but I can do Dr. Pepper.”

– Cher

It’s there in your hand, on your kitchen counter, the table, or in a thermos waiting to go with you.

It’s the ubiquitous dark universal drug of choice. Okay, it’s not officially a drug. Then what is coffee? You tell me.

Coffee.

It’s all about coffee, I drink one a day and I don’t even like it. So why do I do it? Where did it start, this drinking something I only like when it’s iced and it’s 95 degrees?

Caffeine hits my brain like a car leaving the track at the Indy 500 head on. Too much at a dinner party, and I turn the room into a club and never shut up until people start drifting into the kitchen and staring back at me, as I stand there talking to empty couches. This embarrasses She, who only drinks fruit juice.

So when I do it, it’s decaffeinated. Almost no one does that. People who drink decaf in America are like bare foot skiers in the Alps. Who does this? It’s so rare that the baristas at the various coffee houses stare at me for a moment and then say, ” It’ll take a minute to brew some.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re the only one who asks for it.”

“I can’t be the only one.”

“No, someone came in last week and asked for it.”

So why do I drink it at all? Where did I learn this?

After my father’s death, my mother started sleeping later and later. Then she started having migraines. She was after all, only 48 when her husband died. Menopause and death is a bad brew.

I was always up early and made my Wheaties. One day, she taught me how to make her coffee, so much water in the pot, so many scoops of Maxwell House. It was fun. I took the white enamel pot and ran the water as I was instructed for one minute, and then filled it up to the assigned mark, then put the coffee in the silver basket, sat down and ate my breakfast in the blue light of early winter morning, while I watched the coffee perk. I saw the coffee bubble up in the glass top and then it was ready. Percolated coffee. Who does that anymore? Only, I suppose, those who remember the day Lindbergh flew the pond.

One day after a long period of mourning, Mama came down in her robe and poured some of my coffee in my father’s cup, sat across from me and stared out at the yard. Then she took a sip and held the cup out to me. I took a big sip and made a face.

She laughed, the first time I saw her laugh in weeks. She put some of my sugary cereal milk in it. I liked it. After that she let me drink it when she did. It was a healing moment, a bonding between two humans who had lost the love of their lives and that’s where it started for me. Life is funny, ain’t it?

Coffee plays a strong part in all of our memories.

You got off the Greyhound on a cold rainy night in Louisiana, and there it was sitting alongside a piece of lemon meringue pie.

You were waiting in the chow line on an air base in Texas. You moved along and poured it from the big vat. Now you’re grown up and drinking it black the way Mama did.

You’re standing guard duty in a tower and somebody said if you fall asleep, they’ll shoot you. You’re scared, and somebody brings you up a white cup full of it, and the sun comes up.

It’s about romance: Before you had money and lived uptown, coffee used to be the ideal opening line. You were standing next to the most beautiful dancer in the world.

“You wanna like…maybe, like…get a cup of coffee after rehearsal?”

She says yes, and it’s snowing, and at this little place, there’s the refill at no extra cost. It’s bitter and you don’t like it, but something in her smile provides the sugar, and there’s money to share a piece of pie and your fingers touch, and suddenly it’s love and it was all about coffee. And to think it all started at a kitchen table on a cold winter morning.

Life is funny, ain’t it? Wanna get a cup of coffee?

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: