My mother loved sweets. She enjoyed the too-sugary jam-filled candies from the box of mixed chocolates. She liked chocolate covered cherries, cake with frosting, and ice cream. The only alcohol my mother indulged in was – on rare, special occasions – sloe gin and coke. She was fond of coca-cola, and always kept it on hand. First thing in the morning, though, she had coffee.
Mom almost always brewed coffee in an old metal coffee pot that sat on the stove top. There was a time, in the 1960s, when she switched it out for a fancy silver electric percolator. In the seventies, she followed the crowd with a “Mister Coffee” drip coffee-maker. There was a short period when she tried out Taster’s Choice instant coffee, for convenience. Mostly, though, she stuck with her stove top brewing method.
While she kept an eye on the clock to make sure the coffee percolated for the right amount of time to produce a finished product of the right strength, Mom cleaned her eyeglasses. Then she wound her wristwatch. Finally, she selected her coffee cup.
When the brewing process was finished, the ritual began. Two heaping teaspoons of sugar went into the bottom of the cup first. Over that, Mom poured hot coffee to the half-way mark. Milk went in then, up to the very rim. Mom would dip her head to sip from the cup first, before lifting it to her lips. Then a sigh, and a smile, a smack of her lips and “Oh, that tastes good!”
We all learned to love coffee by drinking what was left in the bottom of Mom’s cup, when she abandoned her morning indulgence to get on with the day. That half-inch of liquid was the consistency of syrup, milky and sweet, with just a vague hint of coffee. It was a treat to be fought over. It was worth jumping up to clear the table for, and something to bribe the smaller children with. I think every one of Mom’s children grew up to be coffee drinkers.