The Coffee Shop

The coffee shop became my home during my third year of university.
When I close my eyes I can still hear the soft acoustic covers, the hum of distant chatter and smell the wafting aroma of freshly made coffee. I would sit in my familiar corners, either on the oversized leather chair tucked away in the back room or the little table next to the wall by the fireplace, whichever seemed more inviting that day. Those spots became my living room, the baristas my roommates. “Did you hear Dustin Kensrue released an album?” I asked the barista and fellow Thrice fan. He nodded as he pulled my espresso shot. “I did, I listened to it yesterday. It’s a lot different then his other stuff.” I smile, “It is different, but in a good way; it’s stripped down to its essence.” He finishes my vanilla latte with a perfectly poured rosetta. I pause before picking it up, taking a mental picture, scared that I might wreck it with unstable hands. “Thank you!” I respond, with deep gratitude in my voice. I carefully walk the mug back to my living room. I move my backpack down off the table, it’s half open zipper spills most of the contents onto the floor. Home is a place you can make a mess within minutes of arriving. I sit with my journal open over top of my bible and other books I had brought along, writing thoughts, noting prayers, the smell of my latte rising up through my nostrils like a type of chapel incense to usher me into my favourite time of the day. 

 I don’t think my husband drank many lattes before we met. Uptown Waterloo, early spring, it was one of our first dates together. Spontaneously walking into a little bakery coffee shop called Honey. I remember the chalkboard menu board, the alternative barista with a sleeve tattoo and the asymmetric buzzed hairdo. The cupcakes were gorgeous, the macarons were to-die-for, my lavender selection just the perfect combination of decadence and delight. We sat down, warm lattes in hand, at a table made from an abandoned door and thought it was so creative; we might make one for our future home one day. Sitting across from each other, latte after latte.

 You could say we fell in love over coffee. We shared our thoughts, our hopes, and our fears. We talked about owning a coffee shop cafe, like the one I was a barista at for a season. We talked about marriage and family life, what we thought they would be like. Our hearts knit together as we sat across from one another, drinks in hand. 

 Moving to the big city a couple months after our wedding, a small town girl at heart, my only consolation was that Toronto was Canada’s coffee shop capital. We checked out a handful of local stops till we found our new home: Demello’s coffee. The walks were coved in graffiti artwork and the celling was lined with Edison lights and black umbrellas. Soon we were regulars, Vita, our barista would grab the maple syrup for my latte when I walked in. Her smile was as warm as the drinks she served. She was a magician and could make a latte so perfect it would overwhelm your senses. She’s a true artist and the national awards tucked in the corner, prove it. We sit with our drinks, taking in the scenes of our favourite coffee shop, a familiar spot in an unfamiliar city. 

 I used a latte to bring the news. I had painted a ceramic mug and written a message inside at the bottom of the mug. He came home from work one hot summer day in July. I offered him a latte in a new mug, he cheerfully accepted it with out question. He sat down and sipped it, as we talked over his day. I brought out a children’s book I had bought months before. We were mid packing as we were moving out of the city in the next two days, and I said I had ‘found it’. He read the beautifully illustrated book, not thinking much about it, and finished his latte when he looked at the inside. At the bottom of the orange painted interior were the words ‘ You’re a Dad! ’ “REALLY?!” He said with joy, disbelief and excitement all at once. Tears filled his eyes as he took in the message this latte had delivered. 

 A couple more moves, and a new season of motherhood transformed me like a fresh bean in the roaster. It wasn’t comfortable but it brought out greater depths and new notes of courage, endurance, faithfulness and growth. To celebrate my first birthday as a mother, we took a trip to a local coffee warehouse. We walked into a place full of shiny espresso machines. The smell of freshly ground coffee wafts through the air as I walk passed some machines the cost as much as my first car. I walk passed the commercial espresso machines, the ones that greet me at the end of the bar at my favourite coffee shops, and find my way to the back. Around me stood the smaller home-sized machines. I see a sleek black European Ascasso espresso machine, aesthetic shape and wood accents make my farmhouse loving heart sing. My husband decided my first birthday gift as mother, would be an espresso machine. It was an investment, but one that would payoff for many years. This purchase would mean embracing a new ‘home’ coffee shop experience and I was all for it. 

 He pours silky microfoam milk over my pulled espresso shot, it mingles with the creama in a way that made the marriage of milk and coffee bloom as it rises up my cup. He finishes it off with a simple Rosetta flourish, like one you’d find at any of the coffee shops in town. My husband has become quite the barista, perfecting the technique as he hands me my daily drinkable art. After a short glance of admiration, I bring the cup of sweet and familiar comfort to my lips to enjoy on a cold winters morning. One sip. I am reminded of our days across from each other in a coffee shop. My nostalgic routine is interrupted by my daughter’s desperate newborn cries. I put the cup down, walk over to her bassinet and place her on my chest. She nuzzles in still squirmy but content. I kiss her head, she nuzzles, I breath her in. I sit with her on my chest, that familiar weight sinking into my bones, one I carried for months. I stroke her head as I look longingly at my neglected latte, it’s comforting warmth fading by the minute. My husband sits with the other two girls and helps them start on a puzzle. He comes and sits beside me, looks at abandoned latte and smiles. He finished his latte about fifteen minutes ago. He instinctively reaches out his arms and brings our little one to his chest. I grab my latte and lean back and reclaim my abandoned treasure. This is what our coffee shop looks like now a days. Three under three, under caffeinated and over tired. It’s much less sophisticated, much less quite quiet but still inspiring in it’s own little own way. We have traded coffee date dreams for living room realities, sitting across from each other to sitting side by side, nursing drinks, to nursing babies. half-drank cold lattes for full warm hearts. It is different, but in a good way; it’s stripped down to its essence.


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