Enjoying a Cup of Coffee
Updated: Jul 30
Mom's home on Rockview Drive in Waco had a garage-turned-screened-in-porch that overlooked her lush backyard. The reason I know that the 1950's ranch historically had a garage is that from the street, the driveway sloped up the steep yard, continued through the metal one-car carport, past the chainlink fence, and hooked a ninety-degree Louie until it came to rest at the screen door of the porch like a puppy waiting to be let in. The part of the drive that extended into the back yard was paved with some sort of janky asphalt that had cracked and humped over time and live oak roots had pushed and poked up small pebbles that made walking barefoot from the porch to the grass a painful journey of about ten feet.
The "screened-in porch" - never "back porch" or just plain "porch" - was my mother's sanctuary. The wall on the right doubled as the exterior red brick wall of her kitchen. The wall on the left was wooden with two doors. One door opened up into a tiny storage area that housed her dryer and was scented by the potpourri of gardening potions and poisons neatly lining the shelves on the opposite wall at the ready to attack aphids and cockroaches and mice. The other door concealed a tiny area stacked with old metal trunks, the 18" tall bicycle that we learned to ride on (it once bore training wheels), and boxes and boxes of magazines, keepsake clothing, and the remnants of memories from our house on Neal Street in Carthage.
At the center of the porch situated just so under the low ceiling with its even lower hanging ceiling fan and between two painted wooden support posts sat her prized wrought iron table guarded by four matching wrought iron chairs. Over the course of many years of owning the house on Rockview, Mom transformed the space into her haven of tranquility. There was an antique dresser that she painted green and centered along the wooden wall. It bore seasonal decor like a Fourth of July "doll" crafted over a tall Coke bottle or arrangements of "pretty" dried autumnal grasses she might have collected along the roadside during her drive to visit Grandma Williams in Marlin.
Mom painted and reupholstered bits and pieces of junky furniture finds and scooted them to and fro across the cement floor until her sense of screened-in-porch feng shui was fully satisfied.
"Come see what I've done to the screen-in-porch," she'd chirp at the front door before you could even set down your Samsonite overnighter.
It was on that porch that my dear Meems "enjoyed" her breakfast coffee. Some mornings my phone would ring in Dallas and she would simply start talking. "I'm sitting on the screened-in porch enjoying my cup of coffee. I wish you could see my azaleas and the huge peaches on my peach tree!" From the moment the first syllable tumbled from her mouth, I could clearly picture the pastoral scene in my mind's eye. One end of the glass-topped table would be properly set with a placemat and cloth napkin. Bits of scrambled eggs and traces of toast crumbs would lie on her cheery pink and green pottery plate with her knife and fork resting in the proper "I'm finished" position at the top right of her plate in the aftermath of a "delicious breakfast." Salt, pepper, a tub of oleo and a jar of raspberry jam having served their distinct purposes would be standing at ease on the glass top table next to her placemat. She would be sitting with her ankles crossed and her elbows would be resting on the table supporting her arms as she held her pretty pink and green mug at the ready close to her lips. Beneath her floral housecoat, her silky nightgown would peak out just above her furry slippers.
Sitting there listening to her prattle on and on about what she was going to wear to church the next Sunday and what she had eaten for each meal since the last time we visited, I could feel the breeze that was lifting the edge of her napkin and hear the birds that were threatening to peck at the near-ripe peaches weighing down the small tree in the grass. Time stood still when she was on her porch enjoying that coffee.
I wonder how old I'll be before I'll master the art of lingering over a beverage. Alan discovered early on in our marriage that ordering a cup of coffee at the end of a meal in a restaurant would cause me to break out in a cold sweat of anxiety. We had eaten all of the things and said all of the things. Boom. Done. Time to go. In my opinion, the only acceptable post-meal beverage order is an iced tea roadie.
I don't understand the concept of Happy Hour. Standing amidst a group of people who are balancing a pig-in-a-blanket on a napkin in one hand and a stemmed glass of red wine in the other... I can't even complete that thought. Simply envisioning the pigs-in-blankets, the standing in uncomfortable shoes, the stemmed glasses. Jesus, take me now. I have been told on numerous occasions that playing solitaire on my phone during these social occasions is frowned upon in proper society.
As far as Mom's screened-in porch is concerned, I am ashamed to admit that I did not enjoy having breakfast of any kind out there. The early morning humidity in Waco, Texas combined with a plate of steaming poached eggs was not my cup of tea. I would fiddle around in the kitchen until breakfast was completely laid out on the wrought iron glass-topped table, dash to my place, swallow the round eggs whole, and then politely offer to begin cleaning the kitchen while Meems was still buttering her biscuits. She kept the house AC set at 68 degrees which meant that the windows were often fogged up in the summer. It was through that fog on the window above Mom's kitchen sink that I would watch my mother sitting at the table in her robe enjoying each and every sip of her coffee. Peaceful. Thoughtful. Happy.
At the end of her reverie when the morning sun was fully blazing down onto the flat tar roof of the porch, she would tiptoe over to the French doors, peek her head into the breakfast room and call out, "Come walk with me around the yard so that I can show you everything that is blooming!" There I'd go tromping the full circle of flowerbeds that surrounded her house there on Rockview Drive sweating like a pig in my bathrobe and furry slippers out of love and respect for the woman who raised me. Biting my tongue as she boasted about the merits of every bedding plant, shrub, and tree, I rolled these words around, over and through my brain, "The pleasure my mother is experiencing right this very moment in time is more important than the sweat trickling down my back," until I believed those words to be true.