Anyone who knows me knows how grumpy I am without my first cup of morning coffee. I used to tell people coffee became a part of my life when I started working morning drive at KMOX, but that’s not quite true. Grandma introduced me to coffee.
I don’t remember how old I was when I had my first cup of coffee, but I know where I was: at the white table in Grandma’s kitchen, sitting in the chair closest to the stove. Grandma didn’t use an automatic coffee maker like I do now. She used a percolator on top of the stove. She always used the same brand—Dana Brown Safari coffee. I loved staring at the coffee tin with its photos of wild animals, usually some kind of big cat.
Grandma kept plenty of sugar and coffee creamer on the white table, and she’d let me “dress up” (as she liked to say) my coffee however I wanted. It didn’t matter if I ended up with more sugar and creamer than coffee in my cup. Grandma encouraged me to use as much as I wanted, and if I made a mess, it was no big deal. She’d patiently clean it up, then ask me if I wanted another cup. I always said yes. You could never stop with just one cup of Grandma’s coffee. She would even let me drink it through a straw, even though now I realize how silly that looked. She didn’t mind because it made me happy.
I was often joined on these coffee adventures by a cousin or two or a sibling. We would sit together at the white table and play games. Our favorite was running Matchbox cars through piles of flour in Grandma’s baking pans. We got flour everywhere, including on us. Grandma never scolded us, although I’m sure she wanted to. She’d laugh at us and then clean it up without a cross word.
I eventually stopped drinking coffee at Grandma’s, and she eventually replaced the percolator with a Mr. Coffee automatic machine. But the memories of Grandma’s coffee remained front and center last Christmas, when I was sitting at the white kitchen table. My brother poured himself a cup of coffee, sat down next to me and pushed the cup toward me and said, “Make it like Grandma used to.” He didn’t have to explain what he meant. I started piling in the creamer and sugar.
It’s been over 30 years since those first cups of coffee, and I’ve had thousands of cups since then. Some I’ve made myself and some I’ve purchased when in a hurry. I no longer drink coffee through a straw. But none of those cups tasted as good as the ones I had in Grandma’s kitchen because they are missing a secret ingredient—love.
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