The days are getting shorter and colder, and the wind and rain are creeping back in to our lives. As I write this, I'm watching the wind whip all of the trees and bushes around outside and thinking to myself that I'm surprised the power hasn't been knocked out yet (but I'm eternally grateful that it hasn't, and I'm knocking on wood right now!). With this blustery weather comes the nudge to make a cup of hot tea most afternoons as I sit here at work, and hunker down in my cozy chair... And the other day, while making my daily cup of earl gray (obsessed!), I had a flashback in the faculty room. (<-- That sounds like a cheesy movie title. Coming 2016.)
Suddenly I was 7 years old, sitting at my Gram's house, at her kitchen table. I can see it, feel it, and smell it all so vividly. Gram is our old neighbor, who I adopted (or who adopted me, rather!) as a grandma from day 1. Her bright yellow house with the cement sidewalk stood right next to us, on the corner of Eliason and Ness Place. I got stung by a bee for the very first time on that sidewalk, and spent countless hours watching Poppa, her husband, clean fish in the yard and leave behind the shimmery scales all over the yard. My shoes constantly had shiny scales on them from the grass, and I didn't hate it at all. I would go over at least once a week for tea -- sometimes with my mom, and sometimes by myself. Plain, Lipton tea bags, with milk (not cream!), and lots of sugar, just the way I liked it. My cup of tea road that temperature line between lukewarm and hot, exactly the way it should be for a 7 year old girl. We would sit at her table and talk and talk and talk. There were usually always cookies to be had (my favorite were her homemade thumbprint cookies with the slightly chewy jelly center. Oh man.) Sometimes Poppa would stop and visit for a minute after working on lawnmowers, but only if his hearing aids were in and he wasn't feeling grumpy. :P When I close my eyes, as I type this, I'm sitting right back there on the wooden chairs, in their tiny kitchen, drinking my tea. Sometimes when I've made that perfect cup, now at 33 years old, I will be transported right back to that memory that completely envelopes me, and wraps its arms around me, just like Gram used to. I feel warm and cozy inside of it, and I let it linger for awhile while I stir in my cream and sugar packets, and it usually fades away a few sips in. But it's there still, tucked away for the next time...
I am not addicted to coffee, and I'm not a person who needs caffeine to stay awake. It takes a lot of caffeine to do much of anything to me, but I definitely enjoy a good latte or a loaded up cup of drip regularly.
For me, so much of what I love about coffee is rooted in connection. It's not about the actual coffee, it's about the company I have while drinking it.
I started drinking coffee in college. I had tried a latte here and there, but had always kind of despised that bitter coffee taste. But one day, driving through the D&M coffee drive-thru in good old Ellensburg with my friends Mark and Randy, it all changed. I tried Randy's Almond Roca mocha and had found the holy grail of coffee. This should alert you to how a weenie like me likes her coffee drinks - sweet. :) But my tastes have changed as I've grown, and I can now tolerate the taste of coffee more than before, but I do still require cream and something sweet inside. After that, for me, it really started to be about the quality time during coffee. "Going to get a coffee" for me was almost always about talking with a friend or colleague, and spending time together. Sometimes playing games, sometimes doing work together, sometimes reading a good book... I can distinctly remember several "coffee dates" with multiple people-- not because something spectacular happened that was out of the ordinary, but because it was just a great time to be with that person.
I can quickly access a memory of a night in Starbucks, located in the parking lot of campus at Central. I remember a table filled with with Kristin and Eric and I, all working on something different around the holiday season. It was the time of Peppermint Mochas and Starbucks totally decorated for the holidays... I can picture us sitting at the table we sat it, and how cold it was outside (probably snowing), having trekked across the parking lot to work on stuff for hours and get out of our rooms. I remember the conversations and some of the things that we were working on, and I feel so comfortable inside of that memory. There are many times when I'm at a Starbucks and I flash right back to that evening. It's the same kind of feeling when I think about meeting with Jon to discuss him being the officiant for our wedding ceremony, or meeting David for the first time at Starbucks in Federal Way. I will always be able to recall those moments.
I could live inside of these memories forever. And on days when things are really hard, or I feel on the edge of tipping, I can slip right back in to any of these moments and feel a little bit better. I can sit holding my latte warming my hands and smile about the feeling that it gives me right in my core. In that moment, I'm happy and content. And all it takes is some hot water and a few other ingredients to get me there.