#7. Belle the Barrister crafts special drinks that help me swallow what’s happened. (I keep trying for metaphor…)

Our apartment is already rented to another family. The twins and I now live full-time and forever with Mimi and Pop. It’s like all of a sudden my closet is full of different clothes and I have no idea what fits and where I’d wear them anyhow. As a stop-gap filler activity until we figure out how we’ll fill the rest of life,  we go to Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe every day. I think of it as Ye Olde Construction Shoppe.

Sometimes I sit at the counter and watch our Barista.  Her name tag says she’s Belle the Barista, but I call her Belle the Builder. I love her.

Belle starts with Mimi’s Hazelnut Coffee: She weighs and grinds the beans and then saturates them with water for a sloooooow drip through a special metal filter into a glass carafe. Once the drip’s set, Belle quickquickquick stirs whole milk, cinnamon, cinnamon coffee syrup, and sugar in a deep metal cup, positions the steam wand from the expresso machine into the mixture, where it whirs away while she starts the twins’ hot chocolate.

She melts chocolate chips in a small, heavy pan and whisks in hot, whole milk, and a shake of chili-cinnamon. She sets the full mugs in front of the twins and swirls whipped cream on top until they shout WHEN!  Belle names the hot chocolate the Clyde and Sam.

Mine is Isabel’s Special Latte.  On our first visit here, Mimi thought age 13 was too young for Lattes. Then I told her Mom and I shared one once a week when I walked over to her lab after practice. Belle listened to me explain its strong pumpkin taste. Hmmmm. Your Mom was substituting pumpkin punch for caffeine kick. I can do that. And like a magician, she steams milk, scoops pumpkin purée, mixes “pumpkin” spices, and finishes it off with a mountain of very thick, from-scratch, whipped cream. It was as if Mom was at her shoulder giving her tips. With every swallow, I’m back in the lab watching Mom put away her slides and notebooks while we sip and chat. 

With fancy neon markers, Belle adds our drinks to the drink white board. In between “White Mellow Mocha” and “Plain Ol’ Coffee with a Kick” is “Clyde ‘N Sam” and “Isabel’s Special Pumpkin Latte.” It makes us feel part of the community when I hear, I’ll have a Clyde ‘ Sam, Bella.

Spooning the whipped cream first, I “construct” this idea: This coffee shop habit is sweet in more ways than one. Belle crafts new, just-for-us drinks. At the same time, we’re crafting new, just-for-us lives.