This post is late, but then everything in my life seems to be this week. I’m writing in response to LL Barkat’s weekly prompt, a call to write about where you are, right now. This is writing from where I was on Monday, actually.
I push open the glass doors, hold one open for Middle Child. She walks through, we walk together to the counter. As she studies the shelves of pastries, muffins, slices of cake preserved behind curved glass, I look around and take in the sight, the smell, the memories. We are at the Starbucks where my husband used to work, when he was in school and we had three jobs, 14 semester credits, and three kids between us. Middle Child was born while Hubby worked here, I brought her here swaddled in pink blankets when she weighed little more than the jug of milk the barista is pouring into a stainless steel pitcher. We have come today together, just the two of us. She has just spent two hours in the orthodontist’s chair, her teeth wired in new braces, her smile looking painfully grown-up. She orders a strawberry smoothie, a mini doughnut to be pulled apart, eaten in tiny, careful bites.
We settle down in the little sitting area, a miniature approximation of a living room. The chairs are leather, they creak and sigh when we sit. Between us is a small round coffee table, on which we set our drinks. I don’t recognize any of the baristas, they all look improbably young, fresh, carefree. I remember coming here almost daily for years, bringing Hubby dinner in worn Tupperware containers. Sitting down and eating with him on his break, one, two, and then three children grouped around us. Middle child remembers, too…her early memories will always carry the scent of coffee, the taste of tepid hot chocolate dolloped with whipped cream.
Those were crucible years for us, the joys and frustrations of growing up while raising a family and always the struggle of making ends meet, making schedules mesh. The subtle music, the soft lighting, the upscale mindlessness of a coffeehouse was the antithesis of our life at home, which was free of luxury but full of life. We took his complementary pound of coffee home each week, used it like addicts to keep up with the sleepless nights with a newborn, the studying, the crazy work schedule. I remember thinking, while I sat in this faux-living room and nursed my baby under the cover of a pink teddy-bear print blanket, how much easier life would be in a few years. I look across the table at my daughter, a child on the brink of change, clinging to the last years of childhood. She is breaking her doughnut up into small, braces-safe pieces, her eyes are veiled behind those long, dark lashes, intent on her work. She is beautiful and breathtaking and she is the same child I held eleven years ago and she is so different, so changed. What has happened to the time, that she is sitting here and we are talking and laughing and looking like those people I watched years ago, people who fit in a coffee shop.
I wonder, as I sip my pumpkin-spice latte, if everyone who sits here looking like they have the answers feels like I do: full of questions, short on answers, beginning to be at peace with that. If the barista behind the counter, who looks so young but is probably no younger than I was back then, is thinking how much easier her life will be when she is sitting here sipping coffee with her daughter. I want to tell her, to go back and tell myself, that it is and it isn’t. To enjoy whatever is, right now, just as it is. Because one day, it will be a part of who you are today and a part of how you got there.
The sun glows through the window with a quiet, Autumn light and I sit back, cup sweet warmth between my hands and just enjoy the now, the way the light falls on my daughter’s hair and turns it copper-gold, the way her green eyes sparkle and yes, even the grown-up wires on her teeth. The shelves are lined with mugs and bags of coffee and the music is playing and the smell reminds me of pink-cheeked babies and late nights and tiny, sticky hands holding mine and I close my eyes and lean my head back on the squeaky leather and just let the moment be, peace in what is now.