I started drinking coffee for one reason — to have special time with Mom in the morning, time to sit together, drink coffee, and share stories before Dad and others joined us for breakfast. I recall when my older sister, Bev, had that special time with Mom when I was a youngster. Although Bev didn’t drink coffee, she appeared to be an honored guest at the table when Mom drank her coffee. And even though I wasn’t privy to their conversations, it was clear to me that they were sharing secrets and important things and things meant for two. I wanted to be included.
That desire passed when I was in high school, too tired and focused on myself and school to do anything more than get out of bed at the final minute every morning, get dressed, and grab a fried egg sandwich Mom had at the ready for me as I hurried off to school. In my 20s, though, the desire returned.
One day at The Lake (Lake Isabella, Wofford Heights, California), I got up early to try my first cup of coffee so that I could participate in the ritual and bond more closely with my mother. Right out of bed, it required that I go against my natural rhythms and arise before 8 a.m., something like 6 a.m. or even earlier. Mom was an early riser, often up before 5 a.m. because she couldn’t sleep. Joining her for coffee would require effort and commitment, I knew. From that day forward, the smell of coffee brewing would awaken me and I would join her for a full cup and a warmup.
Some of my fondest memories with my mother are around those morning coffee chats. She was forthcoming and intimate in her storytelling, relaxed and comfortable, navigating memories and dreams, the remains of yesterday and the beginnings of today. She listened to my self-absorbed ramblings and gently reassured me that all was well and I had all I needed to resolve what needed resolving, all without ever telling me what to do. She was remarkable that way.
I remember when she visited me in Portland after Dad died. I took her into Northwest Portland for a day of walking, talking, people-watching, and sightseeing. We stopped for coffee at Starbucks on NW 23rd and sat outside at a little table. Mom loved it. While she did enjoy her specialty coffee, she most enjoyed the setting and the people-watching. We sat there a long time, happy together.
From that day on, I regularly gifted her with a Starbucks coffee card, always at Christmas, to cover our coffee treats when I visited her. We frequented Starbucks cafes housed in Barnes & Noble, in malls, and on street corners. Coffee and books, coffee and scones, coffee and breakfast, coffee and lunch, coffee and conversation.
After she died, among her things I found the last Starbucks card I had given her. I still carry that card. While my taste for coffee has diversified, I still go to Starbucks occasionally and keep the card filled. I use it and think of Mom. May every sip bring peace.
Composed July 16, 2017 – In remembrance of my mother, Virginia Helen Bruner Kuck (August 22, 1920 – December 22, 2009)