I stopped to think and forgot to start again (bill_schubert) wrote,
I stopped to think and forgot to start again

Coffee, Chapter 1

NOTE: I started thinking about this long ago and had some tentitive starts on it (and, really, this falls in to that category but still I'm moving forward with it) but my sister's story of my life made me think again of it and begin dumping some of the thoughts herein.

From my spot kneeling on the floor the grinder was eye level.  It smelled like an antique.  Dusty, old oil wood.  I suspect it was not authentic but a replica of a true coffee grinder made to look old.  My mother put some coffee beans in the drawer as a kind of joke.  I ate them.  One of my first memories of coffee was the satisfying crunch of the bean and mouth filling taste of coffee.

Both parents drank coffee black and gave me some if I asked.  Until college when I got my first crappy cup of coffee I drank it black and through my childhood I had a cup now and again.  Mom drank a lot more coffee than a now and then.  The smoke from her camel cigarettes lazily drifted in the sunlight as she sat reading the paper or knitting or watching Hugh Downs on the Today Show with her morning coffee.  The smoke danced in the air hypnotizing me with its lazy spirals.  She talked endlessly on the phone and smoked and drank her coffee.  I never can remember what she was saying.  In my memories it just sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher:  Wawwa…wa..wa waawa.  No words, no context, just mom talking and breathing out smoke through her mouth and nose as she spoke into that beige telephone with the handset cord coiled and knotted.

The coffee was made in a glass Pyrex pot on the stove.  If you didn’t have a coat hanger thickness of wire on the burner the pot would break.  I never saw it happen or even heard of it but I remember the warnings early on.  The ritual of coffee was a near religious experience to me.
It was absolutely magic seeing mom use the round coffee filters she had cut out of paper towels to the size of the basket.  Then the Eight O’Clock coffee.
The beans purchased at the A&P (where you could buy cigarettes for $.23 a pack) and poured into the store grinder then returned ground up into the bag placed under the funnel underneath.
The ground coffee was scooped into the basket.  Two big scoops.  And the basket put into the pot already filled with water and the whole thing on the stove top.  Then the true magic.  After a very long time, to me, there would be a small eruption of water up the stem of the pot, into the top where it splashed back down into the basket.  First one eruption, then two quick ones, and another, and finally one after another and the drips back down into the pot started swirling brown and finally the eruptions at the top were also brown and finally mom decided it was strong enough and carefully with a cris- crossed knit pot holder that one of my sisters had brought back from camp, removed the pot and it was coffee.

Never was any operation more theatrical than all of it happening before my eyes.  And the aroma of freshly brewed coffee filled the kitchen.

Mom played tennis frequently in the mornings.  She was an excellent player.  I played against her later in life.  She was not overly athletic nor powerful but it was like playing a backboard.  She returned everything not always with much pace or fanfare but back it came.  I think she frustrated her opponents to trying harder and harder shots until they missed.   For a couple of years she and her friend from a few doors down won the city doubles championship played at night on the red clay public courts.  My father watched but had to take matches since he smoked continuously and the sound of his lighter clicking distracted mom.

My sisters did whatever older girls did.  Away from me. Many years later my elder sister told me the three women were always all on diets and since my father was gone out of town on business trips I was left to my own breakfast devices.  My metabolism was like a hummingbird.  Eventually diagnosed with ADHD I could eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to and never gain an ounce.  And in the mornings I was hungry.  My go to meals were peanut butter toast or chocolate crème of wheat.

I was allowed to use the Hotpoint pushbutton stove pretty early on, still short enough to have to reach some to get to the buttons.  I burned a lot of toast and boiled over a lot of Creme of Wheat but have been cooking ever since.  I never made coffee back then, only occasionally drinking what my mother made.

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