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.