A not-so-bit­ter brew

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

Re­mem­ber that time I gave up caf­feine to boost my

“nat­u­ral en­ergy”? Yeah, me nei­ther. My cof­fee ob­ses­sion has reached a boil­ing point (pun in­tended). After giv­ing up cof­fee and soda dur­ing preg­nancy, I briefly — very briefly! — won­dered if I could con­tinue my caf­feine-free ex­is­tence after Oliver was born.

You know: with a new­born. Af- ter I went back to work. When I was up at 1 a.m. and 3 a.m., then up for the day by 4.

I’ve loved the aroma of fresh­brewed cof­fee since child­hood, when my mom would sip from her steamy mug on Satur­day morn­ings. It was clearly im- por­tant to her — and, old soul that I was, I wanted in on the ac- tion. Cof­fee was as en­tic­ing as a bub­bly glass of Cham­pagne: strictly off-lim­its, so ex­tremely de­sir­able.

I kept away from the cof­fee pot un­til col­lege, back when I drove an hour to make an 8 a.m. class and slammed into the end of my youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance. At 19, I found my­self with a full course load, part-time job, long com­mute — and a need to keep it all to­gether.

Like so many be­fore me, I fell right into cof­fee’s clutches.

Though it wasn’t al­ways that way, of course.

On a high school we stopped in the cafeteria of a lo­cal mall for lunch — and af­ter­ward, had 30 whole min­utes to our­selves be­fore re­turn­ing to the bus. My friends and I took the op­por­tu­nity to ex­e­cute our ul­ti­mate act of re­bel­lion: en­ter­ing a cof­fee shop.

The de­li­cious aroma lured us into the empty down­stairs cafe. No one knew any­thing about es­presso or chai, but we hud­dled around the menu board like jaded so­cialites and pre­tended to con­sider our op­tions.

I was fa­mil­iar with the place from many ear­lier shopping trips: a cozy cof­fee bar in the cen­ter of the mall, a prime spot for peo­ple-watch­ing while Mom got her 3 p.m. caf­feine boost. It felt wrong — il­licit, even — to be there with­out an adult, but I was a 14-year-old with a crisp $10 bill. The world was my oys- ter.

As my friends fum­bled through their or­ders, I ca­sual- ly ducked be­hind a dis­play of teapots: you know, just in case my fa­ther should hap­pen to be out shopping (?). On a ran­dom week­day.

When I fi­nally stepped up and re­ceived my cof­fee — just black, I’m sure — I took that first sip and . . . well.

Let’s just say my cu­rios­ity drained as quickly as yester- day’s bit­ter brew. There’s a rea­son Google’s pop­u­lar search terms for it in­clude “I don’t like cof­fee but want to,” “Is cof­fee an ac­quired taste,” and “Cof­fee for peo­ple who don’t like cof- fee.”

After be­com­ing par­ents, my hus­band and I got a pow­er­ful in­tro­duc­tion to func­tion­ing with­out sleep. Caf­feine be­came more im­por­tant than ever, get- ting us through each painful morn­ing. (And af­ter­noon. And evening.)

I thought my cof­fee ob­ses­sion was bad . . . un­til I be­came a mother. Where I once slowly sipped my drink over the morn­ing news, I now hus­tle up­stairs to shower be­fore the baby wakes up. My cof­fee is plunked down on the bath­room counter, and I’m lucky if it’s still luke­warm as I tend to my wet and mat­ted hair.

And so I have en­tered the new­est phase of my caf­feinat- ed life: the Stop on the Way to Work.

If I leave on time for day care (50/50 shot), I have time to stop at a gas sta­tion to grab a sec­ond ex­tra-large cup for the of­fice. Some­times I go reg­u­lar, some­times hazel­nut . . . you know, just see­ing where the wind takes me.

I see the same crew of men fill­ing their cups ev­ery morn­ing, the same staff and com­muters who ar­rive each day like clock­work. Our cof­fee dance is fa­mil­iar and in­tri­cate: reach around for the sugar, the cream, the lids. Cau­tion: liq­uid is hot.

There I am, right in the thick of it: a reg­u­lar.

Just don’t let my par­ents see me.

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