And it was how I realized that I loved coffee.
I experimented with my coffee palate some over my teen years. That plain coffee turned to mochas – my grown-up version of a hot chocolate. And sometimes, just to be even more “mature”, I’d add a couple more shots of espresso and be bouncing off the walls by late morning. And then I discovered vanilla lattes, the already sweetened coffee drink that held the perfect amount of milk to foam ratio. And this became my signature drink in high school whenever I hit up the local coffee shop.
While I definitely loved those fancy coffee shop drinks, they didn’t hold a candle to the coffee I drank first thing in the morning when everyone except my dad was asleep. It wasn’t flavored with vanilla or chocolate. It wasn’t served in a paper cup with an accompanying croissant. It wasn’t fancy at all. But it was the moment that made it special. Together, Dad and I would pour a cup and sit over the newspaper, taking turns reading it. (It’s interesting, when I got older I envisioned my perfect man as someone I could share the newspaper and a cup of coffee with. And I believe it was these early morning rituals that cemented that desire in me – just another piece of proof about how much impact parents have on their kids.) This was at a time when my dad and I didn’t have much to talk about. I was a surly, headstrong teen who hated school and loved her tatted boyfriend. He was a nose-to-the-grindstone worker who was never private about his expectations for all his daughters, and when we were falling short. He hated my lifestyle and wished better things for me. I just wanted to do my own thing and have my dad accept that. We couldn’t see eye to eye. And many times we’d go days without speaking because neither of us were willing to give in. But whenever our bond was severed by some trivial matter (usually a defiance on my part), it was over one of these morning coffees that it would be resolved. It may have been because I wasn’t fully awake enough to come up with a sound rebuttal. Or perhaps it was because there was no one else around to see me let my guard down. But I think it was really because this had become our moment of the day when we actually connected and were able to be honest with each other. Somehow, things that we’d avoided saying were blurted all over the table, scooped into neat piles, and then categorized until we were able to put them away with ways to solve them. Most of the time, my tough exterior was riddled with tears – tiny droplets that started out angry, but eventually weakened to apologies and need for a bit of love. And my dad never failed to react appropriately with a bear hug and an “I love you”, and sometimes even an apology of his own.
It’s not uncommon to see teens today walking out of coffee shops with a cup of joe. It’s become the social drink of the ages as we find more and more coffee shops popping up everywhere. It’s argued that caffeine isn’t healthy for the younger generation, and I agree. Too much caffeine from coffee (and yes, sodas too) can get in the way of sleep and take away from water consumption. And the desired effect of coffee can lead to even more caffeine consumption through energy drinks or boosters with not only caffeine, but stimulants like guarana and taurine that can affect different people in different ways, can decrease attention spans, and lead to high blood pressure. And large amounts of caffeine can be dangerous to kids with ADHD, diabetes, sleep issues and eating disorders.
But remembering my own childhood and what that cup of coffee meant to me in terms of connecting with my dad, I don’t stop my own daughter from reaching for the coffee pot every so often as we’re both waking up. My coffee nowadays is rid of all sugar, thanks to a metabolism that holds on to every calorie I consume, while my daughter’s is reminiscent of my past sugary teenage brew.
And I don’t stop her from drinking it.
For in that simple cup of warmth is a magical bonding ingredient, allowing for a connection to be bridged even as every other aspect of our relationship strains in her beginning years of teenage independence. And even if she doesn’t say it, I know it means just as much to her now as it did to me way back when…and as much as it means to me now as I sit on the parent side of the breakfast table with a cup of coffee and a partially read newspaper.