I don’t know what it is I do, what ratio of grounds to water to milk I achieve. It feels impossible because we don’t use the same brand of anything and she put about a half gallon of cream and sugar into every cup, and I hardly add anything to mine at all. But memory is a funny thing and on some mornings, somehow, my coffee tastes like hers did; it hits my lips and I’m seven, seated cross-legged at the long picnic table that took up most of their kitchen, up before the sun.
I was always an early riser. My grandmother was, too. She’d make her way into the kitchen moments later, wearing one of the many versions of caftans she wore around the house, all of which in my mind are fabulous. Maybe they were a small luxury in a fought-for life. Maybe they were just comfortable.
“Good morning, glory,” she’d say, and I’d say it back.
She’d put the coffee on, then would step outside for a cigarette while she waited for the pot to brew. Sometimes I’d stay inside. Other mornings I’d go and be with her, standing quietly by, watching as she pulled smoke in and out of her lungs and into the muggy swamp air. Summer in New Orleans. The sun, though barely cracked open in the sky, beat harsh August heat on our shoulders.
I remember it all feeling very grown up. I remember staring at my toes in the coarse, electric green grass. I remember everything looked blue-tinted. I remember knowing I should be quiet, not because she told me to, but because I knew not to disturb any peace found by a woman who did a lot of fighting.
Back inside, coffee’s ready. She’d make us both a cup, about a half gallon of cream and sugar in each.
Maggie Harrison is a New Orleans-based, Pennsylvania-raised writer. She writes essays and creative nonfiction, her work mainly involving grief and loss, the digital world, and the beauty industry.