For reasons I have yet to uncover, much of my childhood was not retained — at least not by me. I do not remember the games I played, the friends I had. I do not remember my favorite food, my first crush. I remember insignificant moments of notable events, but very few everyday nuances.
I remember exactly what the gas mask looked like as it approached my face when I had my tonsils taken out in, but nothing else about the second grade. I remember the sound my sister’s feet made when she stepped on the steel plate in our driveway at 3:30 in the afternoon on a hot, sunny summer afternoon; the plate that could have, at that moment, probably fried an egg. I do not however, remember a single other day spent playing in that driveway, though I know from the stories she tells they were plentiful.
In fact, the only small, every day occurrence I remember in detail is also the only every day occurrence I remember at all. Peculiarly, it’s the only memory I have that can at even the slightest hint of its components flood my senses with everything it is made of.
All of ten, maybe eleven, it was a summer like any other. I was spending a few weeks on my Grandma’s sofa. The red, marbled carpet underfoot smelled of Dachshund and dust. My Grandpa was in the kitchen wearing one of his signature see-through t-shirts. He was fidgeting with something on the counter. It was early. I never expected her to offer me a cup of coffee, black, just like she drank it. But she did.
It was cheap coffee. Maxwell House, if memory serves. Straight from the supermarket. It was strong and bitter and hot. Hotter than I had ever expected. I cupped both of my hands around the worn, orange mug and choked it down silently; one sip at a time in sequence with her own.
Even now the feel of a smooth mug in my hands, the smell of coffee — cheap, expensive or anywhere in between, the steam coming off a hot cup; they all bring back the most vivid childhood memory I have.
I drank one cup of coffee every morning for the rest of my stay that summer. Everyday in the very same way; black, both hands cupped around the mug, sipping in unison with my Grandmother never knowing it would be one of the last I’d spend with her; she was diagnosed with and died from cancer when I was thirteen.
Despite the fact that I rarely drink the stuff these days — though when I do it’s black and strong and bitter, but not too hot — I remain obsessed with it to this day. I will always be a sucker for the blue metal cans found on supermarket shelves, but more often than not I will spend hours browsing the virtual shelves of online shops specializing in organic, fair trade varieties instead; especially those with catchy monikers like the Brainscan Coffee Club and eye-catching pictures like Downtown Roasters.
Do you have a favorite organic, fair-trade or hand-blended coffee? Tell me about it!