I arrive a touch late to the Longhouse mug match-up taking place Sunday evening in the dining room. My mug reminds me of a damask print in waves of taupe and ivory. It is smooth and cool to the touch. Clearly this ceramic object is about more than just morning coffee. It serves as a visual, a writer’s inspiration, but at daybreak tomorrow, it will cradle a steaming cup of french press with a heavy dose of whole milk.
Monday, our tiny Hamlet dawns sunny, nudging me to greet the day. There is just the slightest hint of iced triple shot latte deprivation pulsing through my temples. I trade pjs for shorts and sweatshirt, coax sleepy feet into socks and running shoes. Like a petit cochon seeking truffles, my nose slightly twitching in anticipation and desperation, I descend the creaky wooden staircase. Where is the onslaught of rich French roast mingling with earthy Italian? The kitchen is dark, the french press snoozing on the counter. It is too early for coffee and I am crestfallen.
Pushing open the unlocked screen door, the sunlight is temporarily blinding. Looking right and then left, I am convinced that I am stepping into Thornton Wilder’s Grover’s Corners.
My sneakers opt left, navigating the uneven slate walkway that winds past wrought iron fences dotted with black-eyed Susans, The road is now inching upwards, paved black gravel meeting road sign 85. My knees are getting cranky, and the hill winds steeper still, finally leveling off opposite a small wooden shed, bleached light gray from the sun. There is a table set with a still life of yellow squash and vivid tomatoes, priced at 3/$1, with an honor system box below. I am thirsty and thinking about coffee.
Retracing my steps, there appears to be only one option for am caffeine at this hour. The neon red sign in the window of the Hilltown Café Diner states O-P-E-N. How convenient that the diner just so happens to share a building with the U.S. Post Office. Note to self: Next time bring a letter.
The diner draws me in, and surprisingly does not disappoint. The air is thick with the smell of frying eggs and bacon on cast-iron, maple flavored syrup and drip coffee from a Bunn-o-matic. Fashioned out of knotty pine and flanked by high backed chairs, the counter has a wavy bend to it, ideal for sitting up close without bumping your knees. I am completely out of my typical morning comfort zone, the clientele a polar opposite to my usual 8 am routine. Here, men are dressed in sensible dungarees, a few in flannel shirts, a few in practical short sleeve plaid, all engrossed in conversation and cups of joe.
There is no espresso machine, no line of impatient caffeine dependent commuters waiting for their soy lattes to grab and go. Nary a baby-toting Mom in yoga pants looking for a scone and a jolt.
I belly up to the side bar and help myself to a simple brown paper cup. There are two kinds of coffee for the offing; regular and decaffeinated. A quart container of half and half is resting in a cup of ice, cozying up to the sugar packets and stir sticks, making it easy to forget all about almond milk. The coffee is strong enough and hot enough to fuel my caffeine deprived soul. For now.
Once again I am on my way, temporarily buoyant with a caffeine buzz. Sneakers descend the hill, heel/toe, heel/toe. “West Side Story” is orchestral in my earbuds and I’m involuntarily ‘jazz handing’ as I round the bend.
The aroma is unmistakable as I cross the threshold of the house which is now abuzz with Young Scholars. Front and center on the farmhouse dining room table is a french press, poised and ready to pour.
I have just the very mug for it.
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