As I was driving home from dropping Sean off at school the other day, I noticed the long line of cars wrapped around Starbucks and the crowded parking lot and I got to thinking how no one drops by for coffee anymore. It seems that everyone goes to Starbucks instead.
Friends dropping in for coffee is all but a remnant of another era and I think that is kind of a shame that we aren’t available for spontaneous interaction anymore, that we don’t open our homes for that sort thing, that we are just too busy or that we don’t think our homes perfect enough or clean enough or whatever enough.
As I have mentioned here before, my parents live in the same house they bought in 1956. In that time, they have served approximately 23,436 cups of coffee to neighbors, wayfarers, odd-ball relatives and the occasional long-lost friend who just dropped in. My parent’s coffee pot has been on for 54 years.
My parent’s kitchen defies everything Southern Living tells us we need to create a warm and welcoming space for visitors. Their home is not big and bright and you certainly will not find anything new or matching or from Pottery Barn there. Their kitchen would make Martha Stewart cry.
The avocado green paneling is circa 1972. The pattern on the linoleum floor is all but worn off and slick from the constant ironing of the rolling chairs. (Aside: I’ve always thought that chairs with rollers were an interesting choice for a kitchen so small you can reach anything without having to get out of your chair. And in a 100-year-old house that has settled substantially, rolling chairs on slick linoleum means you could potentially roll out the back door if you are not paying attention.)
The refrigerator is covered in pictures of grandchildren and great grandchildren and postcards and magnets with wise sayings. The table is always so cluttered that you have to scooch books and puzzles and prescription bottles aside just so you might carve out four square inches of real estate to set your cup down. The trick is scooching it all en masse, like a tectonic plate, to just the correct degree, so that whatever is on the other end of the table doesn’t fall off like California into the Pacific.
The 45-year-old Melmac coffee cups don’t match, nor do any of the not-silverware.
My mother does not serve fancy or flavored coffee — it’s Folgers or whatever is on sale and if you want cream, it’s store brand Coffeemate.
Their kitchen is teeny tiny and cramped and cluttered and woefully out of date. It’s not fancy or comfortable and would not pass the white glove test.
Nonetheless, people want to go there and hang out for a time and chat, and they have for more than half a century. Something there draws ’em in and it ain’t the kitchen or the coffee.
Must be the conversation and the company.