Friday, September 4, 2009

Coffee: It's Not Just About the Caffeine

Part II:
If my Mom's parents were Currier and Ives, my Dad's parents were Punch and Judy.  The peace and cozy warmth of our country grandparents' home was wonderful and I'll carry the comfort of those memories with me the rest of my days, but our city grandparents' home was more about animation -- spirited talking, laughter, board games and fire engine sirens... Everything loud and stimulating.  What kid wouldn't love that?
Mommom and Pappy and my father's brother, our Uncle Art, lived in a rowhouse in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, smackdab in the middle of the action.  But, let me tell you, the traffic and fire engines and busy-citiness outside had nothing on my grandparents; there was always something going on at their house, some new gossip or a good argument lively debate, and the three of them were happy to have us come visit and join in or referee.  It was great fun.  In the summertime, a ballgame played as background music and card games on the big front porch would halt mid-play for everyone to watch the fire engines go by. My grandparents and uncle would come running out of the house to catch a glimpse of them when they passed; speculations would be made about where and how big the fire was; debate would ensue.  The card games were occasionally resumed.
Though the "big" furniture in their house dated back to the 1930s, Mommom's kitchen was all done in 1950s kitsch, original to the time.  She was all about bright colors and kooky ephemera. If you looked out the window you could see the pink flamingos, windmills, and little dutch girls in her yard.  She collected elephants and salt and pepper shakers and must have had thousands of them.  Candy or Christmas sugar cookies (during the holidays) decorated the sideboard when we visited and tupperware containers of deli meats and cheeses and special mustards waited in the fridge.  In the bread box, Mommom stocked all sorts of  breads we never got at home: pumpernickel, rye, sourdough -- no Wonder bread for my grandmother!
And there was always coffee. 
My grandmother made stout-hearted coffee, so strong you could stand a spoon in it, my mother said.  My grandfather drank it black -- all day long, but starting so early in the morning, we thought he never slept.  At our bedtime, we'd leave him sitting at the table smoking cigarettes, reading the paper, and drinking coffee* and no matter how early we got up, he'd be there at the table, smoking cigarettes, reading the paper, and drinking coffee.  My mother didn't like the strong, strong coffee and couldn't put enough cream in it, but, even as a child, I liked the very idea of coffee you could stand a spoon in. 
And I like my coffee strong to this day -- or bold, as they say now. Though I grew up to be a country girl and try to recreate  for my own family the comforts of my country grandmother's home, I have to admit I run out and look when a fire engine goes by; I often will turn on a ballgame just for the background noise; and I like a lively debate every once in a while.  And there's no denying it, because I'm the mother of ten children, my life is loud and stimulating -- and goes perfectly with my strong coffee

* Ed. Note (for the sake of my siblings who will correct me): At some point in the afternoon, Pappy's coffee cup would be exchanged for a can of Schlitz Malt Liquor Beer (I can still hear that jingle in my head after all these years).  I'm not really sure, because a kid doesn't keep a tally, but I think he nursed just a couple of cans through the afternoon. 

Other notes on my grandfather: I know it's not a politically correct thing to admit, but one of my fondest memories was getting the high honor of blowing out Pappy's match when he lit up a cigarette. He had a nickname for each of us grandkids, and mine was either "Liza Jane" or "Grammaw" (because I was his oldest grandaughter).  And, this is a somewhat ribauld memory that I hope doesn't offend, but I just have to share it:  Pappy had a little wooden outhouse, about six inches high, with a little hinged door with a crescent moon on it.  We were forbidden to open the little door -- so of course we did.  And for our disobedience, as soon as we cracked the door, the little guy in there squirted us right in the face.  And Pappy laughed and said that's what we got! 

Our grandmother was even sillier, and loved to play games and talk with us children.  I mean really talk; she told us our whole family history, shared with us what was going on in her life (and the lives of everyone she knew), and was really interested in what was going on in ours.  And she was so funny!  Even though she was just this side of tone deaf, Mommom loved to sing, and she got the biggest kick out of serenading us with songs she knew we didn't like.  Remember the song My Name's Not Lisa?  Well, I got an earful of that one for many years.  I'd love to hear her sing it for me now.

(And it wouldn't surprise me much if I did hear it, because she always said she come back and haunt us just for fun...)


IsabellasCloset said...

Lisa, What a wonderful blog you have!
I love this post...what fun, it sure has made me smile.
You brought back many family memories to me too. Thanks so much!
Blessings ~Mary~ :-}

Diana said...

Another great post Lisa and great memories! I actually remember that little outhouse from somewhere. Someone in the family must have had one! I love your stories Lisa, you make us feel like we are right there with you! Love Di

MightyMom said...

I'm no longer allowed to read your posts as instead I have 3 LOUD AND REPEATED requests to scroll down so they can see THE KITTY CLOCK!!!

say what you will, your blog is all about THE KITTY CLOCK!

(grandparents are cool)

Aubrey said...

I LOVE it! Now I'm wondering where you grew up?