I have this coffee cup.
I know, that's not such an unusual thing. A writer who has a coffee cup. Even a writer who drinks coffee. I don't know what it is, but coffee seems to be more common among us wordsmiths than almost any other profession, save cops, the military, and neurotic babysitters. Okay, we rank in the top five there, anyway. Even NaNoWriMo features a coffee cup in its logo, here:
But I have this coffee cup. It's special to me because it's been in my family for at least three generations. See, it was my grandfather's cup.
As long as I can remember, every time we went over to my father's father's house, Gandpa would be drinking his "whitewashed javelin" from this very cup. The stain on the brim, by the way, is permanent. I've tried bleach, and it's become such a part of the cup, I just gave up. As you can see, I don't drink my javelin whitewashed, but I think Grandpa would understand. Because every time I have coffee in this cup, I think of the kindly little man with the impish grin and the amazing ability to stop hurricanes just by muttering, "Iris, that's enough." It's my communion with Grandpa. And for those who are wondering, he wasn't a fireman. He built tractors for Allis-Chalmers, and when the situation arose, he built tanks and jeeps for Allis-Chalmers.
I think of coffee as a social lubricant. Coffee is a great ice-breaker. It brings people together in ways that beer doesn't. How many wild brawls have ever broken out in a Starbuck's? And that's not even honest-to-God coffee; that's someone's double-decaf-mochaccino-latte-with-a-cinnamon-stick meeting someone else's frappuccino. Ever notice no one there asks for just a plain ol' cup o' joe? But no one wants to pick a fight, even when they're all caffeinated as Morwen on Battle Haste and Haste of the Elves (Inside joke, for all you LOTR gamers)
Anyway, coffee is a variation on the Communion that the Wise One instituted with bread and wine. Nothing mystical about it. "When you do this, think of me." That's all he was asking: That we think of Him when we do that. How the Twelve hung out with him, learned from him, loved him and when they had this little bread and wine ceremony, they thought of him. So when I have coffee in my grandpa's cup, I'm not blaspheming. I'm using a time-honored method of remembering a man who was in the last horse-cavalry regiment in the US Army, who moved his family to La Porte, Indiana to find work during WWII. Who shared a joke with anyone who would listen. Who loved the open road as much as he loved his home. Whose gnarled, patient hands turned wood into art, and who loved his family with every moment of his life. Who raised the man who taught me how to dream, and hold fast to it until I saw it realized.
I should put that cup on a shelf, some have said. What if I break it? I'd lose it forever. But I can't imagine having it and not using it. The communion with my grandpa just wouldn't be there. So I put it at risk. I fill it with rich, black coffee, throw in a scoche of sugar, and sip it carefully, breathing in the sharp aroma.
And I park it next to my computer as the tank for the mental gasoline that powers me through writer's blocks and plot holes, and drives me toward my next dream.
And I think of my grandpa, Keith Cyrus.
Long live coffee.