Memories in a Coffee Pot

This small, forlorn coffee pot holds a barrel of memories for me.

My parents had a coffee ritual. Most days, unless my dad was out working in a far-off field, he would come in around 4 p.m. for coffee and a snack. It might be fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, or warm whole wheat bread with butter and chokecherry jelly, “wonderberry” (wild berries similar to blueberries) pie, or vanilla ice cream smothered in fresh sliced peaches.

Mom placed a generous scoop of coffee grounds in the pot and poured boiling water on top, letting it “steep”, like tea. After a few minutes, she or Dad would blow into the spout to settle the grounds, and pour the strong, aromatic brew into their cups. Strangely enough, they never seemed to have to deal with grounds floating on top.

Even when we were working outside together in the heat of the summer, stacking bales, a thermos of coffee marked afternoon break-time in the shade of a growing hay stack.

An extra special occasion, Mom and Dad’s wedding anniversary on Christmas Eve, began with that coffee. As the lavender shadows of dusk gathered, Mom would dress in her holiday outfit, bring out the Christmas goodies, and brew the coffee.

Although I didn’t like coffee and didn’t start drinking it until I was in my 30s, this “coffee time” was a hugely important part of my life, growing up on a ranch in eastern Montana. It wasn’t just a time to stave off hunger pangs until supper, it was a time of togetherness, an important family ritual.

Even after my mother died, my dad continued the afternoon coffee observance.

I am downsizing in anticipation of a move in the near future, and I had to make a painful decision to discard this coffee pot. But the memories will live on.

Published in: on September 5, 2012 at 6:00 am  Comments (10)  
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Elizabeth’s Christmas Eve Gift

Elizabeth’s Christmas Eve Gift is a vintage Christmas story by Chesna L. Smith.

As if they were playing a game of verbal tag, the members of the Miller family always tried to be the first to shout “Christmas Eve Gift!”

Spend Christmas Eve with young cowgirl, Elizabeth on the  Miller ranch in the 1920s to discover how in the midst of everyday chores, good ol’ cowboy humor and the ranch animals remind her of the true meaning of Christmas.

From the wide-eyed wonder of the little believer to the wiry grandmother with a sparkle in her eyes as she muses, “My dad told me that when I was little too,” the heartwarming story has generated responses from young and old alike.

Author Chesna Smith says:
The inspiration came from a story that my husband’s grandmother (Elizabeth Miller Smith) was told when she was a little girl.  Another family tradition was woven in when, after marrying my husband, I discovered that both our families grew up playing a peculiar game on Christmas Eve Morning!  Every member of the family would try to be the first to shout “Christmas Eve Gift.”  In theory if you “got” someone by saying it first, they were supposed to give you a present early.  However, no one ever got around to “paying up.”  The victory was in the thrill of knowing that they would have to wait a whole year before they had a chance to get you back. Neither family really knows where the tradition came from.

Chesna, who grew up in Oklahoma, says, “For as long as I can remember I wanted to grow up and be a cowgirl,  I don’t know if I will ever get there, but it sure has been fun trying.

Illustrators are Shawna Wright,  Clayton, NM, and Ben Miller, nephew of the late Elizabeth Miller Smith, who lives on the Miller Ranch where this story took place.

Come along with Elizabeth and see how in the midst of everyday life she discovers the greatest gift of all.

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