The Ceremony of it …..

-Maida Korte

            “We want to do a lot of stuff; we’re not in great shape.  We didn’t get a good night’s sleep.  We’re a little depressed.  Coffee solves all these problems in one delightful little cup.” – Jerry Seinfeld

My brother Todd learned to like coffee when he worked with my Uncle Richard for Wing Builder’s, Richard’s construction company.   When Todd was in high-school, and in the summers between each year of college, my brother did the grunt labor for Richard’s construction projects – eventually learning the skills of carpentry that would ultimately launch his own career.  The way Todd saw it was that clients would come and offer coffee to the men in the morning, and he couldn’t just say “I would actually prefer chocolate milk” – so in order to fit in and sit with the lumber-jack men around him, he should learn to appreciate coffee for what it was.  A break.  A ritual.  A rite of passage.  A sipped elixir of energy and hotness.

My brothers and sisters and I saw coffee as a grown-up part of life since my parents drank it by the quart – a percolator always turned on it seemed and any adult coming to the house was offered a cup of strong coffee and so the conversation began, cup in hand, blowing and sipping and talking.  My dad put in two heaping tablespoons of sugar and a glop of milk with every cup.  He used to joke that he had a little coffee with his sugar.  My mom drank hers straight up black – a purist.  When instant freeze dried coffee came out I remember the excited conversation between my parents as they tested this new idea, and so a jar of the crystals stood on our counter next to the percolator for those moments when waiting just wouldn’t do. 

I didn’t like coffee in high school but I did try and pretend in one of my classes.  My literature teacher kept a pot turned on in the back of the room and a candy jar on his desk both for the taking.  In order to be ‘cool’ I did pour a cup of coffee and set it on my desk and take miniscule tastes between discussions of Hesse and ‘The Glass Bead Game’ but I really wanted the chocolate.  Many of my friends in high school were heady and intellectual – wicked smart.  I was capable and able to dissect conversations and offer relevant points enough to be allowed into the inner circle and coffee was what we all held in our hands.  Laced fingers around a hot mug of coffee feels ceremonial and sets an expectation for successful debate, all important things when you are 16 and don’t know exactly who you are.

I drink coffee now with my husband every morning.  It is our wind up to conversation and allows us to be together but without having to take up the elements of the day just yet.  Prepare grounds – filtered water – scoop dip pour stir sip think.  “I have a measure this morning with a client that has a scary dog.”  “The gravel delivers and the site is a pool of mud.” “Grandbabies coming over on Saturday.” “I can’t button my pants.”  These are important headlines and the first sip of coffee and then the mull that comes after, allows for the recognition we need to start our day.  One final swig and chair scrapes back on wooden floor and so the day begins.

2 Responses to “The Ceremony of it …..

  • Wendy Larson
    11 months ago

    Love this!

  • Wonderful memories Maida! You brought me right home, to mom’s kitchen and the people who wandered in and out. And yes! That is what coffee is for—relationships and ritual—and for me, a wonderful excuse to stop. I love this!

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