Since I’ve reached the half-century mark, I can look back on the first fifty years and take a small measure of pride in the seasoned woman that I have become. By the way, in case you were wondering, my seasoning is spiced paprika.
Now that I’m a member of the Golden Girls Club, I relish the new things in life that I have uncovered, but more thrilling to me are the wonderful things that I have rediscovered. Long lost traditions, treasures and rituals of days gone by are renewed, leaving me misty eyed at their remembrances.
My Granddaddy was a coffee drinker. The aroma of fresh Lucerne coffee, made in Grandma’s aluminum stove top percolator with the black handle and clear bulb on top, would fill first the tiny kitchen of their modest home on 5th Street in Greenville, North Carolina and then emanate into the entire space of the house, making my little girl mouth tingle with the anticipation of the first sip.
Granddaddy was an early riser, up well before the rest of the family who would awake not only to the coffee’s alluring aroma but the intoxicating smells of bacon, country ham, link sausage and toast made with Sunbeam bread which, no matter how hard we tried, we could never replicate the wonderful flavor in our home 290 miles away in Seat Pleasant, Maryland. There was something magical in that loaf of Sunbeam that Grandmommy bought down south, but more than that, her stove seemed to be able to pull off feats of culinary wonder that ours could not.
My sisters and I relished our time spent in our Grandparents home. Somehow during our visits, nine people managed to make do in two bedrooms and I never once heard complaints which held any real merit. There were, of course, the usual grievances of childhood that put their indelible stamp on our sense of normalcy (“She’s taking all the covers, Daddy,” “Stop looking at me. I can’t sleep with you staring at me,” “Mommy, her leg is touching me!”), but nothing that a sharp tongue or The Look from Daddy couldn’t put an abrupt end to.
As much as I enjoyed being in Greenville, my true delight came when my Grandparents visited us in Maryland. With the arrival of Granddaddy came the promise of a ritual shared between the two of us that made me feel special, like a big girl, grown well beyond my six years. While the house and its inhabitants slept, Granddaddy and I would make our way downstairs to the kitchen where he would commence with the festivities. The percolator, much like the one he used in his home, would be filled and my already big eyes would grow even wider with expectation. His favorite coffee mug—an oversized, smooth, polished yellow behemoth of a mug—would be at the ready and, for me, he would reach into the cabinet for a much smaller mug, one more suitable to my diminutive grasp.
When the coffee was ready and the fumes had wafted through the air, no doubt floating its heady scent through the hallway, up the stairs and wormed its way into the spaces between the floor and doors to invade each bedroom and stir its sleeping inhabitants, I waited. I waited until Granddaddy fixed my cup of coffee in the image of his: with a generous amount of milk and sugar. I waited as he stirred the now light brown liquid as plumes of steam rose from the mug. I waited as he raised the mug to his lips and his eyes, already beginning to develop bluish-gray tinted rings at the cornea, sparkled when he looked over the rim at me. “Booooo,” he would say, long and drawn out for effect, and this never failed to elicit a giggle from me. At last it was time. We sipped our coffee, together, me and my Granddaddy.
I was a girl of 6, enjoying the tiniest cup of coffee at the only time in life that I ever remembered having a true penchant for it. In those moments, when it was just me and Granddaddy, the connection that I had with him was unlike any other. This was our time, and this was what we shared. With my Granddaddy, Sam Hopkins, his love was mine. Long before he left this earth, when our morning rituals, few and far between as they were, ceased to exist, my craving for coffee waned. But perhaps it was never really the coffee that had taken hold of my heart. Instead, maybe it was the beauty of the moment, when a grandfather and granddaughter shared the same space in time, in the early morning hours, and she mimicked him as he drank.
Throughout my adult life, I never reacquired a taste for coffee. That all changed in October of 2013. Now, I am once again a coffee drinker, just as my Granddaddy was. Today, more than 40 years after my last cup of coffee with my Granddaddy, I come downstairs in the morning, pop a K-Cup in my Keurig machine, wait the requisite 2 minutes and then enjoy a cup of coffee at my leisure. Even though I love my Keurig, it’s not the same as with my Granddaddy … but that’s okay. My Granddaddy will always be a part of me, and I a part of him. And the strongest memories I have of him are also the fondest.
I raise my mug to you, Granddaddy. You have influenced me so much more than you know. I miss your smile. I miss your laughter. I miss the sound of your voice as you would “boooooo” to me just before we would partake in sipping coffee during our special time together. I sure hope they have coffee in heaven; you deserve every great cup you get. Perhaps I’ll search high and low for an oversized, smooth, polished yellow behemoth of a mug and, once again, I can drink coffee not only just like you, but with you.