Coffee and Connection

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By Will Sutton

 As I write this, the coronavirus has locked down the country. My older brother and I have been evacuated from college; my younger brother is completing his final week of junior year online, and both my parents are working from home. In quarantine, time, hair maintenance, and my conversational skills have more or less gone out the window. But there has been beauty, too.

Most days, I roll out of bed at 9 or so and stumble downstairs. Like a moth drawn to light, I beeline for the coffee pot. My dad has already been up for an hour or so, working from his desk in the loft room above the garage. But he always makes enough coffee for the two of us.

My dad and I are the only two regular coffee drinkers in the family. He picked it up as a hardworking student in law school; I, in junior year of high school, a testament to my poor time management and inconsistent sleep schedule. Many a family vacation has been marked by our shared concern in finding a place to get morning coffee, and many a stupid morning war of words has been instigated by our lack of caffeine.

There’s a bond that comes from our love of-- and an unfortunate dependence upon-- coffee. Sharing a coffee pot provides a direct link between my dad and I, a connection in the midst of work and Zoom calls. When I sip my morning coffee, it is with the knowledge that my dad brewed it with me in mind, and vice-versa on those rare days when I wake before him. Confined to our oddly insulated virtual workspaces, we may not see each other until dinner. But from our own corners of the house, we share the experience of that day’s pot of coffee-- weak, strong, bitter, earthy, sometimes flat-out bad.

Food and drink can bind us in surprising and enduring ways. I’m sure many readers have encountered vivid memories embedded in specific foods: the summertime nostalgia of fresh watermelon, the carefree days of college recalled in the taste of cheap beer. Trail mix may conjure images of childhood camping trips or mountain peaks. The taste of coffee, for me, will always evoke my dad, brewing a two-cup pot on the surreal mornings of coronavirus quarantine.

Food and drink are sensory anchors to which we can tie our relationships and memories. There is something powerful, I think, in the knowledge that eating and drinking are not just for nourishment or enjoyment, but acts of remembrance, and acts of connection.

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