I had my first cup of hot tea on Saturday, January 4, 1975 at a restaurant on Interstate 65 in northern Indiana. It was unplanned. Cheryl and I had been married two weeks that day and we were moving to Wheaton, Illinois for graduate school. Everything we owned was packed into our Ford Pinto and the 4X6 U-Haul trailer we were pulling. We stopped for lunch and when the server asked what I wanted to drink I said “tea.” Where I was from there was no need to say “sweet-tea” (one word, one and 1/2 syllables) and no need to say “iced tea.” Real tea had the consistency of syrup and enough ice to make the glass sweat.
I drank that cup of tea, partly out of curiosity and partly because I had too much pride to admit my mistake. I wasn’t impressed. I was a coffee drinker, always had been and always would be. I had drunk coffee all my life, literally. My aunt Gladys would give it to me in a baby bottle. Her concoction was mostly milk with coffee added as a curative for colic and other ailments. I remember Mom letting me have coffee when I was four or five. I would add so much sugar it couldn’t dissolve and enough milk to turn it tan. Within a couple of years I was down to a modicum of milk and two spoons of sugar and then one. My mother took one spoon of sugar and three drops of milk (she wouldn’t drink milk) in her coffee. My goal was to drink it black, no sugar, just like my Dad. By the time I was in Junior High School I had eliminated the sugar but not the milk.
Now when I say “coffee,” I mean instant coffee, Maxwell House or whatever was on sale. Mom and Dad preferred it that way. After they retired we bought them a drip coffee maker, but they wouldn’t use it except when we were there. Cheryl kept good coffee in their freezer for whoever was visiting. Sometimes, even when we had a pot made, I would catch Mom boiling water for her own.
When Cheryl and I got married she couldn’t stand coffee, not even the smell of it. At Wheaton I worked as a security guard at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. My usual shift was from 8:00 P.M. until 6:00 A.M. I drank a lot of coffee. On the mornings I worked Cheryl had to unlock the door to let me in and always greeted me, “Good morning. Shew, Go brush your teeth if you want me to kiss you.” Which I did. I continued to drink coffee for breakfast enduring Cheryl’s condescending culinary critique of that “disgusting stuff.” I also brushed my teeth a lot. Who knew that love would fight cavities.
We were a divided couple until we entered our doctoral programs. We had one electric typewriter that had to serve us both. For several weeks each semester, during crush times, there would be days on end the typewriter was never turned off. We would type our papers in shifts, around the clock. Cheryl learned to drink coffee and even to like it. Before long she was addicted. Once or twice she has attempted to break the habit. It wasn’t a pretty sight. I’ve considered intervention but no one should have to witness the horror of her withdrawals. Over the years she has become quite well known as a connoisseur in our circles. Friends bring her coffee from all over the world, expensive coffee.
I still love a good cup of coffee but I can live without it. A few years ago I shifted to tea as my preferred hot drink. I can drink all the hot tea I want without any side effects. Too much coffee can give me indigestion, especially old coffee. It seems the coffee pot in our office suite is either empty or half-full of old, very old, coffee when I check it out. Hot tea is always fresh and each blend is consistently the same. I enjoy the varieties available, but green tea is my usual. And they say it’s good for you.
As for coffee, if you make it, I’ll drink it. Otherwise, would you mind heating some water?
May 26, 2010