Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A New Cup O' Joe

In 1992, when I was packing up my few belongings and about to move out of province to continue my university education, my grandmother ("Omi" to me) rummaged through her kitchen and gave me boxes of things that I could use in the kitchen of my new, tiny (300 sq.ft) basement apartment in London, Ontario.  In addition to the pots and pans and dishes and serving bowls that she piled up for me, she gave me a Braun coffee perk that she had used for a few years already, until just recently when she had purchased a new one.  Apparently, even though I didn't drink coffee or know how to make it, I was absolutely required to own a coffee perk in order to be a proper host (and lady!) when entertaining people who did drink the brew!  So, I lugged the perk to Ontario and set it up in my kitchen - months later, when I started to get to know a few people, I smiled when I actually began to use the thing to serve people lovely java when they came over for (literally!) coffee...including, later on, Geoff!

In December of 1994, when Geoff and I got married and set up house together, the coffee perk began to be put to daily use.  Over the years, it has moved with us to different homes in Ontario, Vancouver and, finally, here.  Geoff has needed to do various things to keep the aging percolator brewing, but until recently it has never failed to provide a good cup of coffee, despite the fact that it was yellowing with age and stained by the many pots of coffee that it had poured out.  Last week, when it finally and irrevocably broke down, it was time to invest in a new one - a lovely, new, shiny Kitchen Aid machine that, while terrific I'm sure, is likely not nearly as well made as the old Braun that brewed its mud for well over twenty years.  I told Geoff that he would have to dispose of the old one, because it simply held too much connection for me to the grandma that I'd loved so much and who died soon after we married.  A few days after transitioning from the old to the new, I was driving away from the house and saw the old perk sitting on top of the garbage can at the end of the driveway. I had to stop the van and simply look at it for a last few seconds, knowing that by the time I came back home, another tie to my Omi would be gone.

It's hard letting go of the things that connect us to people we love.  It's not the perk itself that had any meaning - I rarely drank a cup of coffee from the thing despite its heavy usage.  What meant something was the memory of Omi bending over to look through her kitchen cupboards for things that she could give me; what meant something to me was Omi's stubborn insistence that I learn how to be a proper lady (even in the days when I rolled my eyes at her for suggesting that); what meant something to me was her support of my wanting to continue my education, even though it meant leaving the province to study elsewhere; what meant something to me was the memory of how much she loved me, her oldest grand daughter.

As I serve up a nice cuppa java in my fancy, shmancy new coffee maker, I will be smiling in memory of her.

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