Coffee is Like a Hug

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The day was brand new, my eyes heavy coming out of the sleep. The room is warm, even though the sun is barely peeking through the the house. El Paso, Texas during the summertime in the 80s, and outside of the window, I hear my grandmother hanging the laundry on the line. There is a bird chirping outside, and I pull the crisp, white linen sheets over my small body. I never knew how those sheets remained stiff, yet comfortable. I take a deep breath and there’s the faint smell that feels so familiar.

My abuela always made a little cafecito con leche each morning to start her day. When she would lean in close to me to help me with my napkin, smelling her breath always felt like a sacred secret. After our meal, after the dishes were washed, there she would sit in her chair, affording herself a few minutes to dip half of a bolillo into her café as her breakfast.



The house would be busy with shuffling sounds of my mother going from room to room picking things up or organizing. I’d hear the whirr of the vacuum, muffled footsteps on the carpet, and cabinets opening and closing. Then my favorite sound of all, the grains poured into the metal. The water filling the vessel and not many moments later the popping of coffee activating in the percolator. It was my job to fill the sugar container and a small glass with milk. We were having a party, the guests would come over and coffee was always there, waiting to be poured or shared. Lots of chatter, glasses clinking, the spoons hitting the sides of the mugs as their owners stirred the milk and sugar. Daddy never drank coffee.


Amarillo, Texas in the mid-80s, waking up before the sun, I was a little grumpypants. Never in my life have I ever been a morning person. But one Saturday out of every month, I would have to get up much earlier than I would ever have to awake for school. I’d throw on some old clothes and my ten-ees (sneakers) and we’d head to the church. I’d spend the next hour or two polishing the wooden pews in my church. Initially, I’d be angry to be up that early, but for my efforts, I’d be rewarded with a donut and mom would get her coffee: 3 sugars, 1 milk.


Summertime errands, I always wanted to go to the bank with my mother. Not so much because of the free Dum Dum we would get in the drive-thru, but because when she had to walk in, next to the free coffee was a glorious, sparkling sugar cube pyramid. I was allowed to eat two. I’d savor them one at a time, melting that sweet goodness on my tongue. And ever so often, one of the cubes would have a lone drop of coffee on it. It tasted good. It filled me with an unexplainable warmth and happiness.


In high school, hovered over our books, with our calculators and pencils, I’d sit in that booth at IHOP with my buddies. Smelling that coffee and being around my friends would make me smile. I didn’t yet drink it, but I did enjoy the smell. Later, when I was in college, I would go to McDonalds and order a small coffee. Not to drink, but just to enjoy the smell in my room. To remind me of home. To bring comfort me. There were more than a few solitary moments, laden with horrific thoughts of doing harm to myself, and I could be brought back to center with the comfort of coffee. Arms wrapped tightly around my body from within. Reminders that I am loved.


I had my first child. Running on very little sleep, patience low, I was reminded of the the coffee I’d afforded myself during my pregnancy that helped me to stay awake on my commutes home. I would indulge in a saccharine and calorie-filled caramel macchiato from Starbucks, and ZING, I was a new person. Not only did the caffeine activate my brain to alert, but my body was filled with dopamine happiness.


Specialty coffee shops have emerged near my office. I’ve made friends with baristas. That frothy goodness from their skilled hands produced euphoric optimism, which worked in my favor. Has always worked in my favor, especially when I’m trying to slay those demons from within. I heart coffee. I enjoy sharing it with friends. I enjoy it alone. It makes me think of happy times. It also reminds me during those not-so-happy times that there will be sunshine again,  that I just need some patience. Sit. Wait. Sip the coffee.

Do you have a special coffee story? If so, I’d like to hear it.



**If you are still reading this and there is likelihood that I will ever see you in person, then consider this a coupon for a free coffee. We’ll sit, chat, sipping on our coffees, talking about everything and nothing.**

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