Brrrr... it's cold outside! Seems it's hard to get warmed up. It's been a challenging few weeks since my hubby has been having health challenges, dizzy spells, memory loss, etc. I'm his chief caregiver, so it's changed the dynamics of my life considerably. I'm no longer in school full time, but I have kept on with my writing class.
Marcy Alancraig is the most amazing teacher! She's been patient with my absences, all the while encouraging my writing. Writing is something I can do while I'm in waiting rooms!
So, I actually have started to write a novel! Wow! Me! So, I'm sharing a piece that I wrote, actually at a Zen Writing retreat with Maxine .....(I'll come back to her last name). It's a memory piece from the talks my mom and I would have. It fits in perfectly with my story as a flashback of my main character, Jean. This is my first draft, so any critique or comment is so appreciated! Thanks for reading!
It's the morning after her husband's funeral and Jean is expecting a young man for coffee....
Glancing at the clock, Jean noticed she had twenty minutes or so to relax before he was due. She ground the Starbuck’s French Roast beans, the favorite of both her and Jim. Then, she smiled at that wonderful fragrance of brewing coffee. There was such comfort in the rich aroma as the coffee made it’s gurgling sounds as it began to drip. What was it about the smells and sounds of brewing coffee that just seemed to lead to meaningful conversations.
Just like that she was transported in memory to the sounds of her mother’s kitchen, the double metal click of the old Frigidaire, or the cracking sounds of the oven as it was warming up to cook their Friday tuna casserole. But the most familiar sound was the sound if her mom brewing coffee on the gas stove. Before they could afford an electric percolator or later, a Mr. Coffee drip system, her mom would put the Folgers grounds in a basket inside the pot, always starting with cold water. (Jean never did find out why cold water.) Then there was the waiting as the coffee begin to perk. Little bursts of amber liquid bubbling in the glass top, increasing faster and faster until just a bit would sputter out of the pour spout to dance on the hot burner beneath.
Her mom would pour the fresh steaming coffee into one of their green Fireking mugs, the ones they bought with their Blue Chip stamps. Then she’d add two heaping teaspoons of sugar, the sound of the sugar bowl lid, another sound memory. The milk that was added to the coffee came from the can of Pet Evaporated milk. Her mom would use the bottle-can opener to puncture the top of the can, making a triangular hole on one side, then just the teensiest hole on the opposite side that would allow the milk to pour without sputtering. The coffee ritual would always end with the sound of the spoon stirring the creamy light tan liquid. Her mom could always tell if the portion of milk to coffee was right, just by the lightness of the liquid. Every once in a while, little white lumps would appear in the cup, signifying that the milk had gone bad and was curdling in the cup. But most often, the mixture was just right and the sounds would end with a clink as the spoon was laid down on the red flecked Formica table.
But before the mother daughter talks would begin, her mom had yet another ritual that was a bitter sweet memory for Jean. Her mom was a heavy smoker and regardless of countless tries to quit, she never could. That is what took her life at a too early age. But, when her mom had both a cup of coffee and her cigarette Jean could count on her mom to really listen to her.
Her mom’s “smokes” had their own unique set of sound sensations. If the package was fresh, there was the tearing of the top of the cellophane wrapper that guaranteed the freshness of the tobacco. Her mom had beautiful, elegantly manicured fingernails, painted “Cherries in the Snow” by Revlon. A long finger nail would catch the underside of the little tab then her other fingers would grasp and pull the long tab. She’d always stop short of completely separating the long ripped off piece, so that it dangled off the end of the rectangular top that was then discarded.
The Raleigh package hosted an addition benefit. Redeemable stamps and coupons were the rage in the fifties. Most adults had lived through the hard time of the depression, so the offer of merchandise, in exchange for a collection of stamps, Blue Chip and Green Stamps, or coupons from packages of cigarettes, was quite a value. It took her mother’s long red index fingernail to slide between the coupon and the package itself, freeing it from the tiny tacky glue spot that kept it in place.
When her mother pulled the coupon from it’s place she often hand it to Jean to put in the kitchen junk drawer to be counted later. Jean loved counting those coupons, putting them in stacks of 10s. But even more, she loved pasting the sheets of Green Stamps or Blue Chip stamps into the little books. Mom wouldn’t let her lick the stamps, although she really loved the way the flavor lingured on her tongue! The “proper way” was to fold a wet dishrag placing it on a saucer. There was usually about fifty stamps to a page that would be pressed onto the wet rag, little beads of moisture poking up through the perforations. They had bought the entire set of “Twin Star” stainless steel flatware with only three books of Blue Chip stamps!
Extracting the first cigarette had a sound of it’s own. The open side of the pack would show four cigarettes, all smooshed tight together. Her mom would hold a finger against two cigarettes and then thump the pack against the silver rim of the Formica table. The two end cigarettes would begin to poke out and her mom would grasp one then thunk the pack on the table again, this time pushing the other one in.
The Ronson lighter was a shiny silver color that had its own unique metallic click as it was flicked open. The mother’s thumb would rapidly rotate the little wheel that would strike the flint that caused the spark to catch the fumes of the lighter fluid as the flame shot up and inch or so.
Her mother would raise the lighter to the cigarette dangling from her lips. Drawing a deep breath, the end of the cigarette would respond with an angry red glow. The lighter would be snapped closed and gently placed on top of the pack that held the remaining nineteen cigarettes. The acrid smoke would twist and curl, a thin veil in front of her mother’s face, as her mother took a sip of her coffee she’d focus right on little Jean’s face and say “Tell me what’s going on honey.” And, the talking would begin.