In a little over six months, I’ll hit the half century mark. When I made my entrance into the world in 1965, the milk man brought the white liquid in glass containers, calls were made on a rotary phone, and if you should be unlucky enough to fall asleep early on the night that Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, or A Charlie Brown Christmas was on, you were out of luck until the following year.
So much has changed since I came into the world. But one thing has remained the same in theory if not always form. Coffee.
As I sit at my desk and take another sip from my big mug, a little bit of milk, three Splenda, I realize that ever since I was 16, I have turned to coffee for comfort and refreshment.
I first started drinking coffee when I had a job answering phones on the weekend at my mother’s real estate office. Back then it was a splash of coffee and a lot of creamer. Going to the coffee maker was a way to stretch my legs and drink something to keep my voice from getting scratchy from saying, “Good afternoon. How can I help you?” all day.
I then started using larger amounts with less and less milk to keep me up during high school midterms, finals, and projects that I had a tendency to keep to the last minute.
Black coffee became my mainstay when I was a young acting student still living at my parents’ house on Long Island. I would get up early, swig a few gulps before taking a 7:00 am train, buy a cup for the ride and another in Penn Station, quickly stirring in my Sweet ‘n Low, and drinking it while I ran for the subway to make class.
When class was over, I would grab another cup for the longer train ride home where instead of getting off at my home station, I would take the train to the end of the line where I was doing a play.
Then came my time living in the city and getting coffee in small cafes. The locations and the company I kept changed as I went from being a shy struggling actor to a more confident woman who traded the dream of the stage for an office job and a little financial security.
No longer able to drink my coffee black anymore, I started adding a little milk. As my options for sweeteners grew, I went from the pink package, to the blue package, to my current favorite, the yellow package.
In the 90s, flavored coffee became the rage, and I enjoyed many cups and different flavors with the man who was first my boyfriend, then my husband.
Joe and I made it a hobby to try different blends and flavored coffees throughout Manhattan. We would take long walks and find little speciality coffee shops or just find a little dive diner and sit at the counter and drink just plain old coffee and talk politics or plans for the future.
A few years after we got married, we decided to go full hog and start grinding our own beans and brewing our own coffee. Joe really became a home brewmaster and I started to enjoy cups of coffee in the quiet of our apartment. Paying bills or tackling a big project became a bit more bearable if Joe and I had a cup of coffee to share together.
Now that we live in suburbia, our one nod to our past life in the city is our coffee.
All three of our kids have been accustomed to hearing the whir of the coffee grinder since they were in utero. And each one of their first outings was to a Starbucks.
Coffee is the glue that has kept our marriage together these past 22 years. Nothing has ever been so bad between Joe and I that a conversation over a cup of coffee can’t make it better.
What would I do as a mom without a cup of coffee to keep me up or to share with a fellow mom?
I don’t think I’ve ever written an article or blog post without a cup at my side, sometimes hot, more often cold from sitting and waiting for the words to magically appear on my computer screen.
My life has taken many twists and turns during these nearly 50 years. I’ve experienced much joy and some significant sorrow, yet through it all a simple cup of coffee has been my one touchstone. A daily reminder that whatever else may be right or wrong in my life I can be grateful that I can hold my cup of coffee, take a sip, and know that life will go on.
This piece was originally published on the Dishwasher, October 2013, under the title, Spilling the Beans. This version has been slightly edited.