By the time I make it downstairs each morning, clothes on and teeth brushed according to the rule I made up for everyone else, I head to the coffee machine. I get sucked into Coffee’s magnetic pole like an alien to the mothership, and sometimes I long for the morning just so I can have that first cup. This means I’m pretty sure I know what it’s like to be an alcoholic. As my husband would say, “It’s emotional.”
Sure, it’s ritual, it’s the promise of feeling more awake at some point later in the day, but it’s also that tiny part of me that holds the cup in front of me like my national flag. This coffee is MINE. It’s not yours, and you can’t have it until you’re old enough to be able to determine when your underwear needs to make it to the dirty laundry pile.
I don’t actually get to drink my coffee until my kids are at school, because there’s no time to sip while dashing upstairs to grab something that didn’t make it onto the mental list of required clothing my children generated as they stood groggily in front of their dresser, scratching themselves and rubbing sleep out of their eyes.
One recent morning, my toddler had been particularly demanding. He’d started yelling the moment he woke up, dispatching his various needs while pointing his finger in the air, waddling around in his footed pajamas like Napoleon, and generally being the type of minion crusher that I always thought belonged to other people. By the time I finally shoved my oldest two out the door to school, I was panting from the effort, and only then did I realize I had to pee because I’d been holding it for two hours. I put my coffee down on the floor inside the front door, and headed to the bathroom.
That’s when the Conqueror decided to strike.
He pulled open the door and smiled, finding me cornered in our tiny powder room, my back up against the toilet seat and both of us surrounded by a papered menagerie of bucolic 18th Century farm scenes, which made this little lord feel right at home. “SIT! MAMA LAP!” he said loudly and sweetly, but of course I knew better, and what he really meant was this: “You just stay there, woman, and let me sit on you and whack you with this large, sword-like thing I found in the garage.”
After a few seconds, he got bored and left me alone in the bathroom. He walked to the front of the house. He picked up my warm mug of coffee with both hands and wobbled belligerently back through the foyer, splashing my coffee all over the rugs and along the length of the hallway. “MAMA COFFEE!” he shouted truthfully, and from inside the bathroom, I heard him getting closer. Then he tripped over the transition piece that lies on the floor between the hallway and the living room. He dropped the cup, whose contents sloshed up in the air before landing all over the floor, the wall, and Napoleon himself.
Of course I couldn’t say for sure it had all happened exactly that way, because while he was in the hallway practicing rudimentary geyser science, I was safely ensconced on the toilet, foolishly believing I had scored three minutes of alone time without consequence. I emerged to find him padding through the house with a broken shard of my mug raised over his head and a long trail behind him of round, wet sock prints like laughable clues in a whodunit mystery. He started to run away from me, giggling, and I chased after him to keep him from accidentally stabbing the dog.
I mopped up the coffee pond with an old dog towel and resisted the urge to pull out a squeegee. Instead, we changed socks, grabbed a couple of frozen waffles, and headed to Starbucks for an apple juice and a gigantic latte. Because sometimes, you have to let go of the way it happens and just make it happen.