11 Comments

ONE LUMP OR TWO?


coffee
I see the sunlight dripping through the small kitchen window over the sink, leaving puddles of yellow light across the linoleum floor. We ate breakfast at the wood table in the large old kitchen of my Grandmother’s home in Long Beach. It had a drawer where the kitchen silver was kept which always seemed a good idea to me. The morning smell of coffee permeates my memory, but it troubles me that I can’t remember if my mother took cream in her coffee.

This has nuzzled my memory for a long time. Surely one should remember if their mother drank cream in her coffee. I could always remember who took cream and who did not. I always thought it was the mark of a good hostess. Why can’t I remember if my mother did or did not?

It’s a matter of staying in the moment. To pay attention to the everyday things which make up the pattern of our lives.

Searching for my eight year old brain as I sat reading the Wheaties box with Jack Armstrong’s picture on the front, I see my Grandmother with her cup of coffee, not a mug like today, but a Blue Willow cup. Her sister, my Great-Auntie, has a whole set of Blue Willow. My mother is heating the curling iron on the gas stove to coax my stick straight hair into ringlets. I stiffen in anticipation of the hot iron so close to my head. My Aunt’s indolent shuffle into the kitchen brings a frown to Grandma’s face. You can see who runs this house. My Aunt came in after midnight from a date last night, and will be late for her job which she is lucky to have in the Depression. Wrapped in a flowered silk kimono and mules with a fur puff ball on the toe, I think she is glamorous. These are the three women who raised me.

Grandma lives large, and without a doubt she has cream in her coffee and probably 2 spoons of sugar, the cream poured from the small bottle on the table, probably lots of it. The smell of coffee blends with the hot toast in the broiler with the butter making soft brown spots all over it. My aunt is sleepy, but between sniping at Grandma, who shakes her head and looks cross, I know she probably puts cream in her coffee.

But I can’t remember if my mother put cream in her coffee. She has been gone over thirty years and it still bothers me. I should remember.

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11 comments on “ONE LUMP OR TWO?

  1. Perhaps cream in her coffee was a treat which she enjoyed when it was available but not every day. I can have “half and half’ in the refrigerator and not put it in my coffee because I don’t really like the way it tastes. But, once in awhile – just for a treat – I will have some when I’m out … or if the coffee tastes really awful.

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  2. I know you don’t take cream! Except maybe Starbucks? I used to put cream in mine, but I don’t drink coffee anymore.

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  3. Now you have me wondering. I know my dad took his coffee black, but beyond that, I haven’t a clue. Surely someone was using cream and sugar, because I have my grandparents’ pressed glass cream and sugar set, which always was filled and on the Sunday table. As a matter of fact, the sugar bowl always was on the table, along with a spooner. Who uses a spooner any more?

    What we remember and what we don’t is so interesting. It intrigues me that the smallest things often seem to have the most importance.

    I laughed at you reading the Wheaties box. I was forbidden to read books at the table, and once convinced Mom to change cereal brands because I’d memorized the text on the box and was bored.

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    • I’m laughing at you changing your cereal because you finished the text on the first. I’m also laughing because I didn’t allow my kids to have the cereal box on the table. I don’t remember how they got through breakfast without something to read.

      I’m convinced that our memories are made up of bits and pieces. Little flashes of light which flit through our brains. We should put them all together and write a new history. The other thing which always intrigues me as an only child—my girls each remember the same thing differently. I have only the one version.

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  4. These questions trouble me, too. I often wonder about people, places and events of the past. The only person who could fill in the blanks would be my mother and it used to be a regular feature of our conversations. She’s been gone for nine years now and still sometimes I think to ask her about someone or something. Alas, there will be no more answers.

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    • That is the sad part of getting older. The answers to our early questions are up in the clouds. And I find that I have more questions the older I become. Maybe it is realizing that time is short and I will never know the answers. I also sometimes worry that our children don’t ask those questions NOW/ Will they someday wonder after there is no one left to ask?

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  5. We used to take cream when living in Finland and had a special ceramic cream container with a little spout. Now we just use milk and direct from the 2 litre plastic bottle. I hope we are not going to slip any further.
    I remember my mother always hand grinding the beans in a coffee grinder that had also a willow motif on it, and was screwed on the kitchen wall. Drinking coffee with her was always a ritual of shared moments that were special.

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  6. Wonderful, sensuous memories.

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  7. Sometimes I get so busy I don’t notice so much, a reminder to slow to look around and remember 😊

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