In Praise Of Coffee

I didn't like coffee until someone invented hazelnut creamer, which I'm pretty sure won the Nobel Prize in chemistry that year. Now I love coffee.

Three decades before I grew to like the taste, coffee gained a special place in my life.

The summer between seventh and eight grade, one of my school teachers saw me walking on a Saturday morning near her house on Kentucky Street, which happened to be two blocks from my own. I have no recollection where I was going, or why, but when she invited me into her house for coffee, I felt like I crossed some giant divide. As I stood on the sidewalk considering her invitation, I was a skinny kid in small-town Texas. When I emerged and headed home a little later, I was a grown up.

And no, this is not a story about losing my innocence. Seriously, life in Floydada, Texas in the 60's was vanilla on a background of bland. Besides, the town was full of hard-working, deeply religious folk. As far as I know, we didn't allow scandals in those days. I didn't lose anything, and this was simply a conversation between a caring teacher and a kid who needed a shot of caffeinated confidence.

She was the first person to ever offer me coffee. I'd never really wanted any, but I knew deep down that coffee marked the starting line of adulthood. When I was a child my dad took me to Rogers Cafe where the old-timers talked about when to plant the cotton, the best herbicide for controlling those pesky careless weeds, and pie. Apparently pie went really well with coffee. And old people got to drink coffee and eat pie, even at eight in the morning.

I didn't. I was a kid. But once I had my first cup of coffee shared over grown up conversation with an adult, I felt 21, or at least 16.

I don't recall ever going to that teacher's house again, but I walked a little more confidently after that day. I had drunk coffee, and no hair had grown on my palms. I had been treated like a man, and now I decided I was one.

I'll always appreciate that first cup of coffee, even without the hazelnut.