How Fake Sugar Makes Real Memories With Mom
Can coffee fix anything? Yes, if you drink it with Mom.
Homemade pot-roast, flowery perfume, fresh brownies, warm laundry, the occasional almost-burned tray of Sister Schubert rolls. Despite all the wonderful smells she fills our house with, I most associate my mom with the smell of coffee.
The only time in her adult life she didn’t drink it was when she was pregnant with my brother. She needed a few cups when she was pregnant with me because she was chasing a 2 year old around at the time. (I guess I turned out fine, though.)
Both my mom and her mom are religious coffee drinkers. They drink it out of dainty china cups so you might not notice when they’ve finished off an entire pot. They drink it in the morning, at lunch, or even in the afternoon—before 5 o’clock. They'll drink it, decaf only, with something sweet after dinner.
My mom takes her coffee with a splash of half-and-half, never flavored creamer or plain milk, and one Sweet ’N Low, never Splenda or raw sugar. She actually carries around at least two candy pink packets of the stuff in her purse at all times. If anyone ever steals her purse, they won’t find much more than some Sweet ’N Low, a tube of lipstick—Clinique’s Think Bronze, and a pair of reading glasses she thinks she’s already lost anyway.
Our favorite coffee shop, Carpe Diem, is just up the street from our house in Mobile, Alabama. It’s a renovated old house with a big bay window, a scuffed-up porch, and dark wood floors that buckle a little here and there. The walls are painted a deep maroon, the color you’d want a warm fleece blanket to be. There’s ice water and clear Dixie cups for people walking by, and there’s never a chance you won’t see someone you know.
After a grueling Saturday of running errands or peering through antique stores, my mom and I joke about how famished we are. We decide that we must get a coffee, and possibly a pastry, or we just might faint. When lives are at stake, you have to be smart, ladies.
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So we go to Carpe (we don’t get the “Diem” out much in everyday conversation, the hassle) and sit at one of the two-toppers by the window. If it’s not too hot or cold out—above 85, below 65—we’ll sit outside and watch cars and strollers go by. She’ll have her medium blend with half-and-half and one Sweet ’N Low. I’ll have my medium blend by its own medium self. If she’s feeling fancy, she’ll make it a latté with skim milk, Sweet ’N Low still required.
If there’s a lot of venting—never gossiping—to be done, we’ll split a piece of homemade carrot cake with cream cheese icing. She’ll eat more icing, I’ll eat more cake, and we’ll talk until we’ve solved the day’s problems, and then some. Often, refills are necessary.
Coffee. Coffee, and half-and-half, and fake sugar in pink packets. A smell that reminds me of home and of conversations that could heal even the most broken of hearts. A smell that’s more than a caffeinated drink in a dainty china cup. A smell that reminds me of my mom and her mom and will someday remind my poor children of me.
Carpe diem, indeed.