Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Aluminum Percolator

I woke this morning dreaming of coffee.  Not mounds of glossy beans or the perfect cappuccinos that sit steaming on the Italian counters of my past.  Nope, I dreamt of the coffee pot my mother used when I was small.   It lived on the stove when it was not being washed. It never migrated to hidden cupboards like the waffle iron and the other less serviceable , 'special days' kitchen objects. It was humble and friendly and it talked.  Small, grey and pitted with tiny dents, it did not brew or drip or foam.  Hissing was not in its repertoire -- it percolated.
Sometimes, lying in bed in the morning at the age of six, wondering which pair of mary-janes to wear to school, I imagined it's just audible put-put-put noises were a tiny coffee pot train moving over the geography of my room.  It moved across my covers and up on my toy box where it did loop d' loops around my fathers hand painted orange and blue stripes and surreal horse heads and then  chugged it's way up to a home station in the lap of my giant raggedy-ann doll. 

When I arrived at the breakfast table my father was invariably already installed with his first cup of coffee and some toast.  He would sip and then sigh with satisfaction.  I was provided with milk and toast and, until I rebelled later against eating undercooked runny things, a three minute egg in a flamboyant chicken eggcup with my name on it.  

My mother would sit down with her coffee and toast, look at my father, and together they would sip and sigh.  Where was my darn coffee?  Looking at my milk and toast and egg blob, I knew from the look on their faces that I was missing out on the best part of breakfast.  The grown-up part.  I asked for coffee. You would have thought I asked for scotch on the rocks, or a drag off one on my fathers Camel cigarettes.  They were horrified.  They explained coffee was for grown-ups.  It would stunt my growth, whatever that meant.  I had a vague picture of my father wacking at some bushes in the yard that he said were, "out of control".  Surely if I was allowed an occasional sip of the evil brew the "out of control thing" would never happen to me. That had to be a good thing- right?
I started a campaign involving plaintive pouting, mysterious stomach upsets and when that didn't work started drinking my milk out of a coffee cup and sipping and sighing in an authentic world-worn grown-up way.

That did it.  I got my own cup of coffee.  Sure, it was only one inch and they insisted that instead of drinking it I could only dunk my toast soldiers in it.  I didn't care.  I could add cream and sugar, smell the steam and then gaze into the little brown bubbles and dunk away.  Heaven. 

This morning I heard my coffee train again.  It's putt-putt-putt followed me all the way to my first cup.  As I looked at the foam I saw a heart within a heart.  My love of my parents and my love of coffee, together in a cup.

© Robin Wendell 2009

1 comment:

  1. Robin,
    I read this post with such interest. Coffee plays a huge role in my sense of comfort for much the same reasons as you, so evocatively, describe. I still have my mom's percolator and use it once in awhile just to feel her presence. So many pots of brewed, reheated and burnt coffee consumed with her and her wise counsel. Needless to say, I drink too much damn coffee!