Thursday, December 22, 2016

Taking Coffee with Dad

I'm a tea person, for many reasons, but as a child I thought I would grow up to be a coffee person.  After all, that's what adults drank.  Nobody ever said, "you wanna go get a tea?" when they wanted to see you.  No, this was New York, it was cawfee.

Both my parents were coffee drinkers, though Mom tended towards Sanka, at least at home.  I never thought to ask if she had coffee at work.   My office has k-cups, and you just assume nowadays that either people wake themselves up with something convenient at or on the way to their jobs.  Starbucks has lines every morning, without fail, even when there's two on one block.  But even if that had been the case in the 1980s, I doubt Dad would have been a regular Starbucks visitor - he was thrifty, and he had a stove top percolator.

It was one of the things my nose looked forward to the most.  Dad would sometimes make his coffee the night before, and sometimes he'd wait until the morning.  Either way, it was a little show, watching the coffee bouncing up top, with Dad's famous tall Tupperware cup waiting patiently on the counter beside the big yellow stove, the green sugar bowl full of his favorite Sweet and Low (I broke the top of that sugar bowl a couple of years ago and promptly burst into tears.)

The smell was intoxicating.  It wasn't gourmet coffee by any means - which at that time probably meant Gevalia - it was either Maxwell House, or Chock Full o'Nuts, but it was homey.  That aroma and Old Spice most likely meant Grammie's house, which I always looked forward to.

However, it wasn't a party when it was my turn to do the dishes (or as Dad would say "do these few dishes"...way to soften the blow!)  That contraption had so many parts, with nooks and crannies and holes jammed with grinds (no filters here).  It was not a simple task to clean, but at least it wasn't gross.  Unless coffee grinds gross you out?  I haven't met anyone with this pathology.

I suppose the nostalgic appeal of the percolator derives from the fact that the percolator meant things were status quo - Dad had steady work, everything was taken care of, life was going on.

In time, the percolator ceased to exist - I assume - and rather than replace it, Dad turned to instant coffee.  Taster's Choice, anyone? Do you remember those commercials?  In his last years, he also upped his Earl Grey tea intake.  Now we had a house full of tea and coffee tins, only the coffee tins were full of coins.

Dad died the same year as my Grandma (on my Mom's side), and I now have her Mr. Coffee, which still works great.  I keep it for company.  Sometimes I consider getting a percolator, but it seems kind of a waste without Dad around.


  1. Maybe we should have a percolater at his welcome back party. And a tall cup patiently waiting, although probably not Tupperware.

  2. Yes, I remember that percolator. One of the things that let me know all was right at home.