Friday, November 26, 2010

Coffeeshops and getting to know your children

The bell jangled, and not in a charming way, as I entered the cramped coffee shop, but I was enamored just the same. I wouldn't have guessed I'd like salmon pink walls with yellow tables and bright white chairs, and yet, my delighted gaze rested upon them as I walked carefully through the patrons filling them toward the counter. Coffee shops not of the large, zombie-like chain persuasion call to me, whether or not I actually need the coffee. I can walk down a street and find myself standing in front of the best one in town, drawn there like a magnet. It's like I've been blessed with a supernatural gift, were I to believe in the supernatural.

After retrieving my coffee from the dull-eyed teen behind the counter, I made my way to the only available table in a corner near what appeared to be a community bulletin board. I settled in and reached for my notebook, only to be startled by an odd question spoken closeby. "What's your favorite family tradition?" says a female voice. At the table beside me sit what must be a mom and her son, a young man in his late teens or early 20s. He looks earnestly at her, buzz cut shining from this morning's shampoo, and ponders her question before giving a thoughtful answer, surprising both me and Mom.

Using my best spy-like sideways glance, I notice they are fingering square cards, and looking to my right, I see I have the same cards. Flipping through them, I see similar questions of the 
first-date variety: Would you rather live for a week in the past or in the future? Is it more fun to be a parent or a child?

Beside me, Son and Mom are discussing how Son likes Thanksgiving as he has fond memories of cooking with Mom as a boy. Shyly, he notes remembering "opening the oven to look at the turkey with you to see if it was done, and it never was" melting Mom's heart. Their discussion moves on to other topics, and they find themselves having, I believe to their surprise and certainly to mine, a rather grown-up conversation about deeper topics most of us don't get to in ordinary, daily chatter focusing on chores we're putting off, TV we're looking forward to, or general annoyances. Mom seems genuinely surprised at Son's thoughtful answers, and I find myself hoping Son doesn't notice. His skinny frame hunched over the tiny table, empty paper cup in his hand, he glances up and down, up and down as he talks with his mom, gaining confidence with every word.

I hoped, as they pushed yellow chairs away from their table and exited, bell jangling with a bit of charm this time, both found new appreciation for each other as adults. As for the coffeeshop, I reiterate to you my expertise at finding the best in town.

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