As a child, I couldn’t understand why grownups loved coffee. Mom smiled when she measured Eight O’Clock beans into the machine at our local A&P. The grounds smelled wonderful when she perked them in her electric pot. Yet, Dad’s coffee tasted awful when he gave me a sip.

My father got grumpy if he didn’t find his cup waiting on the breakfast table. After he ate his eggs, bacon and toast and lit another cigarette, Mom poured him a refill.

I can’t remember her drinking a morning cup of coffee. Perhaps that’s why she sometimes met with neighbor ladies after my sisters and I left for school.

As a young, tea-drinking mother, I missed out on the fellowship of such klatches, for parental influence is undeniably steadfast. Having observed my father’s demands upon my mother, I determined to oppose his addictions. Including caffeine.

Yet, I speak in my father’s defense. As many disabled veterans of World War II, what Dad carried home from Guam could not but try the most devoted husband. My sisters and I later learned we witnessed only a small portion of what our mother suffered.

One beautiful July morning in 2001, my mother’s persuasion prevailed while visiting her. Upon her request, a younger brother had moved her household from Florida to the Kentucky homeplace where they grew up.

My older sister and I had arrived from Michigan the night prior and slept in the upstairs bedroom we occupied as young children. This visit, we came to assess our mother’s memory. To our relief, we found eight rooms in remarkable order.

Feeling like a spy, I met Mom in the kitchen the following morning, her pinky extended while scooping grounds into the filter of her Mr. Coffee maker.

“Iris, would you like a cup?”

“Sure.” How could she remember I, second of five daughters, preferred tea?

“I have my ritual,” she said and paused, a trait inherited from her McCoy forebears. “I drink my morning coffee in my recliner before I have breakfast. Do you use cream?”

I nodded. Why not experiment?

Mom kicked up her feet, wrapped her hands around the cup on her lap, and gazed out the large window to blooming lilies.

I settled into her companion chair with a mug from her new kitchen cabinets, and partook in my first coffee klatch. “Are you glad to be home?”

Her dark eyes lit up. “Oh, yeah.”

“Your lilies are gorgeous. I’ll weed them after breakfast if you’d like.”

My sister, a green thumb extraordinaire, joined us with her brew.

“Are you interested in weeding flowerbeds?” I asked.

“The earlier the better,” she said.

After breakfast, we followed Mom outside. I carried my cup while she strutted like a peacock along her daylilies.

Dear Reader, under maternal guidance, I lifted my mug in honor to our mother’s gardens and morning ritual. She struck her playful pose.

Now a tea-drinking grandmother, I understand grownups need something satisfying and stable to hold onto, and fondly recall Mom’s mug on her lap.

Contact Iris at