I woke this morning dreaming of coffee. Not mounds of glossy beans or the perfect cappuccinos that sit steaming on the Italian counters of my past. Nope, I dreamt of the coffee pot my mother used when I was small. It lived on the stove when it was not being washed. It never migrated to hidden cupboards like the waffle iron and other less serviceable, kitchen objects. It was humble and friendly and it talked. Small, grey and pitted with tiny dents, it percolated.
Sometimes, 6ish or so, in bed, wondering which pair of mary-janes to wear to school, I imagined it’s just audible put-put noises were a tiny coffee pot train moving over the geography of my room. It moved across my covers and up to my toy box where it did loop d’ loops around my fathers hand-painted orange and blue stripes and surreal horse head toy trunk and then chugged it’s way up to a home station in the lap of my giant raggedy-ann doll.
At the breakfast table my father was installed with his first cup of coffee and some toast. He would sip and sigh. I was provided with milk and toast and, until I rebelled, a three minute egg in a flamboyant chicken eggcup with my name on it.
Mother and father would sip and sigh. Where was my darn coffee? Milk and toast and a runny egg were not cutting it. I asked for coffee. You would have thought I asked for a scotch on the rocks, or a drag off one on my fathers Camel cigarettes. They were horrified. It would stunt my growth, whatever that meant.
I started a campaign involving plaintive pouting, mysterious stomach upsets and when that didn’t work started drinking my milk out of a coffee cup and sipping and sighing in an authentic weary world-worn grown-up way.
Finally, I got my own cup of coffee. Sure, it was only one inch and they insisted that instead of drinking it I could only dunk my toast soldiers in it. I didn’t care. I could add cream and sugar, smell the steam and then gaze into the little brown bubbles and dunk away. Heaven.
This morning I heard my coffee train again. It’s putt-putt-putt followed me all the way to my first sip. As I looked at the foam I saw a heart within a heart. My love of my parents and my love of coffee, together in a cup.
In 1981 I was a vintage girl. Totally. My clothes, music and above all my dancing style were straight out of 1939. My wardrobe teemed with circle skirts; their crescent edges cascaded like sequined corollas over my more normal garb. My thinking was if it won’t twirl up to your eyebrows on the triple spins, it’s just not hanger worthy. While my days, working as a Zoo. Keeper, were filled with goat parts and various degrees of muck and dust — muck in the Seattle rain and dust filled with ungulate hair in the rare Northwest sun — at sundown I transformed myself into a Ginger Rogers clone from tip to toe. It was a double life and like all such forays into a mirrored existence it had it’s moments of both the sublime and the ridiculous, the dichotomies of male and female — night and day.
In the day I trudged on in a vaguely androgynous way but at night I was light as a feather and no one, ever, called me mister. I suppose if I had been allowed to wear a strapless evening gown while mucking out stalls I would not have had the problem of people asking me, “Hey Mister, Where’s the Seal Pool”, but my Zoo uniform, a riot of beige understatement reminiscent of the duds of a transvestite service station attendant, doomed me to an image of male drone status par excellence. So I compensated at night. I suppose some might even say — over compensated. But then, it is well know that that whole Stoic/Republican routine of moderation in all things” yada, yada, is only a ploy to keep most folks minds off love and pain and death and instead save money for bogus causes and keep out of trouble, in other words — to not have any darn fun at all.
Where was I, O Yes, frozen sperm. Why is it that Republicans always seem like an acceptable segue to frozen sperm?
I was living on borrowed time with my gritty-goat versus glittered-glove existence. I could feel these worlds coming closer and closer in a scary ‘When Worlds Collide’ kind of way. Then, one night, they merged completely.
This came about through a deceptively innocent senario. At the Zoo my favorite goat was named Eris, the ‘Goddess of Discord’, and we Zoo folk wanted to get her in a family way. Not wanting to endure the various difficulties involved with attempting this along normal, biological lines we had arranged for her to be artificially inseminated. My job as a zoo keeper was to monitor her estrus cycle to determine the optimum time for the A.I. act to occur. This involved noting her amorous behavior i.e. mounting of other goats in fruitless and delusional reproductive activity and gathering her mucus for stretching. You can probably envision the mounting but mucus stretching is kind of hard to describe in a delicate fashion. Basically, you collect some mucus from the goats nether regions on your thumb and forefinger and then stretch it between them like transparent gum. If you can achieve 2 inches without breaking, eureka, ovulation will occur in approximately 12 hours. (That’s 12 hours to ‘making baby goat time.’) Well, after noting and gathering and stretching one day the optimum baby attempting time was estimated to be at 12:30 AM that evening. Of course I had a dance to go to that night and a new gold lame dress made from a 50’s pattern with a huge circle skirt that I was dying to try out so that’s how I ended up past midnite in my rubber boots, gold lame bunched up above my knees with a glass speculum in my hand and a frozen sperm straw warming up in my décolletage. Quite a picture. Steady as she goes goat-wise, three cervical rings breached, one squirt and — bing, bang, boom, AI achieved!
Five months later, TWIN goat girls. I was allowed the privilege of naming them. Felicia and Fi Fi were the the cutest things on the planet. This was the last time I was allowed to name anything, but I did not care I because I had become a father in a gold lame dress. What a relief it was to scratch that one off my life list.
This story is finished but it has gotten me into a mood to try on that old lame dress and a few other accessories from the past. I’ll sign off now and slip into something nostalgic. I just can’t keep on writing, when I get, in the mood.