I remember when my mother
started to seriously drink coffee, and having it be a regular part of her mornings. I was just about as tall as the faucet at the kitchen sink. That time shaped me, my love of coffee as well as my memories of the quiet, and mysterious moments around the table in the kitchen.
Mom became really close friends with a few church ladies, who remained her friends up until her death a few months ago. I won’t date myself by getting specific, but these memories are less than half a century old.
Coffee meant, hushed conversations, and deep belly laughs, spilled confessions, quiet as it’s kept, children sent from rooms but not before “hand me another spoon, baby”, “thank you baby”, from an invited friend nestled in a chair. I hated to leave the safety of our kitchen, warmed by the stove which seemed to always have a pot of Great Northern beans cooking on it, which filled the house with the presence of my mother’s perceived calm.
The warmth of the kitchen left me
but the savory, smoked ham aroma warmed my nostrils all while slowly walking away from the center of all that was to be said. I felt a chill on my neck after I left. With child-like curiosity by one arm and mischief by the other, I forced myself to make it to the top of the stairs. Children were never simply sent out of the room they were sent “upstairs” or to “go outside and play” to be sure hearing range was exceeded. I usually just went to sit at the top of the stairs to listen. Technically, I did as was told.
Dead silence from the table until I reached the top of the stairs. I’d sit there leaning over with my head resting on my knees, straining to hear the hum of my mother’s voice, the clicking of cups on tables, the low chuckles and hisses of combined laughs, and exhaled ciggy smoke through pursed lips followed by a heavy scrape of the cup, and hearty slurp, gulp, and a cackle at the next clever crack.