I tend to think lattes were invented just for me, but someone told me that's not true. (Like how would they know?) In Germany, it was the milchcaffe - a pile of warm milk with just enough coffee to turn it that beautiful creamy brown. At IHOP, its a minimum of 4 little half and halfs for each small cup of coffee.
Last night at the Bay 101, after cashing out with over a 30% profit in my few rounds (and the husband carrying RACKS and RACKS of chips, lucky bastard), I went to grab a cup of coffee before heading home, while the hubby went to powder his nose.
The floor man standing next to me laughed as I poured cream in my coffee cup, commenting on the quantity of cream I use, like everyone does. I smiled and said "you can thank my grandfather."
* * * * *
I was 12. My favorite cousin was 11. We loved to spend summers on the farm with Grandma and Grandpa. It was somewhere away from our parents. And we loved our grandfather. He was the kind of guy who let you do things that your parents would never encourage. Looking back as a parent, they are small things, but things, nonetheless, that made us feel like we were really getting away with something.
He let us go in the creek in our underwear when we forgot to bring swimsuits. Built us hay mazes in his barn. Hung a rope swing each summer in the hay mow for us. Started water fights at family picnics until all the grandchildren (and some of the adults) were drenched. Slipped us candy and quarters when Grandma wasn't looking.
Grandma worked at the local hospital, so each morning, she made him a fresh pot of coffee for breakfast before she left for work. He'd enjoy a cup of coffee with breakfast before he did his morning chores. But it was his lunch routine we were most fond of. He was always back at the farm house by noon sharp. We'd have sandwiches or whatever leftovers Grandma left marked in the refrigerator. And at 12:25, we'd rush through the dishes with him, so that at 12:30, he could grab a second cup of coffee and settle in front of the TV to watch "his stories". "Days of Our Lives" was his standard.
That summer, we fancied ourselves grown up. We asked if we could join him in a cup of coffee. He looked at us sternly. "Coffee will stunt your growth, you know." We weren't sure if we should believe him or not. But he reached up and grabbed two extra melamine cups . . . faded blues and greens and yellows, aged and coffee stained. "Bring me the milk."
We brought the pitcher and he filled our cups half full with milk, and then let us fill them the rest of the way with coffee. And we sat on the floor in front of his chair drinking our "coffees" and catching up on the evil exploits of Stefano, the evolution of Bo and Hope's romance, and all of the other juicy things daytime drama had to offer in 1980. We'd never felt more grown up, though it was weeks before we'd confess to our parents that Grandpa let us drink "coffee".
* * * * *
Four years later, I'd get off the school bus and Grandma's house most nights during the week, give her a quick kiss as she headed off to the late shift at the hospital, and then head to the kitchen. I'd grab those same melamine cups. Same awful faded colors. Same coffee stains. Only this time I'd pour half a cup of Ensure and get a straw for Grandpa. I'd sit with him watching afternoon TV, trying to make sure that he drank. The cancer was eating away at him slowly, his frame growing thinner each day. He was losing interest, but some days, he's still give me the recap of Day of Our Lives. And some days I'd still pour myself half a cup of milk, and fill the rest with coffee from the thermos that Grandma still made each day. Just in case.
We lost him the following summer, after a stay in hospice. But the memories are still there. And if I happen to watch a soap opera, I usually only watch Days of Our Lives.
And when I'm feeling grown up, I still take a little coffee with my cream.