A Time Machine For a Cup of Coffee

“Try some coffee” she ordered.

I was ten. I was from a Puerto Rican household. Kids were allowed to drink coffee. With cheese. Yes, with cheese, IN the coffee. It was a thing. I tried the coffee. Didn’t like it. I can still remember the bitter taste. She had hers in a dainty Victorian cup and matching saucer. China white outlined with vintage pink roses. I yearned to sip anything from that cup. It was reserved just for coffee. I ate the cheese.

“Have some coffee” she said.

“You know I don’t like it” I retaliated. I was 15. I wouldn’t even try it again. I prepared myself some hot chocolate instead. I filled my mug and spooned out the mini marshmallows. I dumped them in to the sink. Her Bustelo canister and my ready mix individual packets were aside one another on the shelf. Both aromas competed with one another in that kitchen. The smell of the coffee triumphed.

“Would you like a taza de café? ” she teasingly asked.

“Oh Mom, always the hopeful soul” I retorted with a sigh. I was 23. I was out of the house. I was visiting. I was an adult. Older folks never listen. They never understand. Does she ask me to just annoy me? We sit across from one another at the table and catch up. We chat, we gossip, we laugh. She sips from that vintage cup with the pink roses. I can’t believe she still has it. I think it has a small chip on the handle.

“Join me for some coffee” she pleaded.

“I really don’t know how you like that stuff” I maintained. I was 30. I held firm. I was proud. I go through her fridge looking for a suitable substitute. I need to drink something. I couldn’t join her empty handed. She explained the beauty in a cup. In the taste. In the smell. I agreed with her on the smell. She educates me. She takes it black. No tainting. I tell her I can’t relate. I scrunch my nose in apparent disapproval.

“Please get me some coffee” she sighed.

“Black and two tablespoons of sugar, right?” I asked. I’m was 35. She responded in the positive. That Victorian cup is no longer around. That makes me sad. Mom is older, weaker. I pour the coffee in to her new pink mug. It says Delores in cursive on the front. A sturdy mug for her fragile hands. She sips it carefully. Smiles at the smell. She leans back comfortably, satisfied after taking a taste. I noticed she didn’t offer me any coffee. I sort out her medication.

“Would you like some coffee with desert?” the waitress asked.

“No thank you” I sadly replied. I could hear my Moms voice. I was 38. My husband kindly holds my hand. He squeezes it with compassion. He knows. I miss my Mom. It was a difficult two years. She’s everywhere. Everything reminds me of her. There are so many regrets no matter how much you’re there. I start pulling every detail apart. I wish I could go back in time. I need a time machine. I want to smell her freshly brewed coffee. I want the vintage cup with pink roses.

“Would you like anything else with your coffee?” asked the girl behind the counter.

“No, just the coffee please” I respond. I waited on that line for so long. I was 41. The wait is worth it. Yes, I drink coffee now. I yearn a coffee every morning. I take mine just as I was taught. Black, no tainting. I stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar. I like it a little sweeter than she did, but still allowing some of the bitterness to come through. I smile after taking a slow careful sip. The smell always reminds me of her. She’d be delighted to know.

“Do you want the coffee maker in green or red?” asked my husband.

“Green, although red would remind me of mom” I stated. He knows red was her favorite color. I finally chose the green. I was 42. My first coffee maker at home. It sits proudly on my counter. A single serve maker. I’m the only one that drinks coffee. Irony at its best. I’m not a fan of Bustelo. My choice is Colombian, dark roast. That first brew fills my kitchen. It feels like a hug from my Mom. I’m comforted even before tasting it.

No more coffee questions.

I’m now 43. This daily routine is a huge part of me. It completes my day even before it starts. I wish I could go back. I understand now. I feel it. The smell, the taste, the process actually brings people together. A club of sorts. A comradeship. I want that time machine. I want to take her up on her offer. I want us to both sip from our Victorian cups together. I want to taste HER coffee. I want to say that my mom made the best coffee. I bet she did.

— Elke

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6 thoughts

  1. This was just so beautiful and well written. It made me want to cry and was so perfect for Mother’s Day this weekend. I do not “drink” coffee, (I usually have about one cup per year when I’m extremely tired and have to go somewhere and even then I pollute it with so much sugar and cream, it’s not coffee anymore), however, I have never heard of cheese in coffee. I think it would be wonderful if you walked into an antique store one day and saw a cup exactly like your mom’s. Great post! 😀

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