Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The unused handle on my coffee cup

I've been drinking coffee lately, which is something new for me. I have never been a coffee drinker. I don't know where this new taste has come from, but perhaps the cold weather had tickled a new tastebud on my tongue.

Anyhow, the other night I was enjoying a cup of Biff's Caramel Cream blend when my 7-year old commented that I never use the handle on my coffee cup...that I always hold the cup itself.

I stopped for a moment and looked at my hands and how they were indeed not holding the big blue mug by the handle specfically made for that purpose.

Generally speaking, unless I'm at a Presidential State dinner and want to conform with the other lemming coffee drinkers, I find myself instinctively drawn away from holding a steaming cup of hot liquid, any hot liquid, by a protruding handle.

Is this just a lack of proper coffee cup etiquette training or experience?

In case you've never been to an Asian restaurant and ordered hot tea, generally, Asian teacups do not have handles on them. You are forced to endure the pain of grabbing onto the superheated porcelin teacup to have the honor of scalding your lips, tongue and epiglottis with the hot beverage. And, while I'm a totally westernized, 20th century product of American birth and upbringing, I'd have to say that the majority of my tea has been ingested using the handleless teacup method.

This by no means is an excuse for my avoidance of the western coffee cup handle. I'm not playing that race card. So then it must be instinct. Or is there something deeper in my psyche that prompts my hands to forego the protuberances and head straight for the cylindrical container itself.

Here's an excerpt from the eulogy I gave at my Grandmother's funeral a little over 3 years ago that may reveal an answer...

Bonding with Grandma was never an easy thing for me to do. After all, when I was younger, she was just Grandma.


When I was entering my mid-20's, I strangely found myself spending Sunday evenings at Grandma's house with my best friend and my brother, watching a selection of TV programs being broadcast in her native language. Grandma would always have a bag or two of rice crackers ready, and she'd make us a big pot of tea...the good stuff. The kind of tea that only Grandma could make.

We'd barely notice as she'd shuffle off to the kitchen when the hot water kettle was boiling, then return moments later with a porcelin pot and four teacups (the good ones reserved for guests) on a lacquered tray. She wouldn't fill our cups until she had tasted the steeping tea several times, making sure it had sat long enough to be strong enough to drink.

We'd drink her tea, eat her rice crackers, laugh, moan and groan together at the melodramatic subtitled dramas.

Finally, I had found something to bond with Grandma with.

When my girls and I went to see her last Saturday, the day she passed, I knew it may be the last time I would see her alive. She had stopped taking in fluids and we were told to expect the end to come soon.

I didn't know exactly what I was going to say to her. But I knew that I did want to introduce her to my 8-month old daughter, PK...Grandma's 5th and latest great-grandchild.

When we went up to see her, the words started flowing with ease, because, no matter what physical or mental state she was in, she was still just Grandma.

I told her that she didn't have to fight anymore. That is was okay to let go and get some rest. That her money was safe, all her hotel rooms were rented out, that her kids were healthy and happy, and that Grandpa and other loved ones were waiting for her on the other side.

I told her that her family loved her very much, but that we all understood that she was ready to leave us.

Before I shut the door to leave, I did ask Grandma for one last thing. That the next time I saw her, would she please have a bowl of rice crackers and a pot of tea ready, so her and I could pick up right where we left off.

Later that same day, we got the call that Grams had passed.
I went and made a pot of tea.

November 12. 2003

When I hold my coffee cup, I see my grandmother's hands.


_gentle said...

I hope you keep this entry somewhere else besides a weblog. Who knows what the future will be like and I think preserving this memory for your kids would be priceless.

OKDad said...

I used Blogger's feature to email myself all of my entries upon publishing and I archive them regularly.

When each of my daughters was born, I started keeping an electronic journal for each of them with all kinds of personal stories, anecdotes about their parents before they came along, and daily doings of their steady rise towards adulthood.

This blog has more or less taken the place of that journal, even though I do make more personal entries to each of them at milestones and such.

I'm planning to upload all the YASTM blog entires to someday and print each of them a hardbound copy of the blog entries to keep for all eternity...maybe even make a few copies for interested friends, relatives and such -- just haven't gotten around to it yet.

Perhaps a new years resolution in the making.