The mornings belonged to me and Daddy. I’d rise well before the sun, and my small voice would pierce the silence. Daddy would hear it and come lift me from my warm blankets. He’d carry me to the living room, and we’d sit in the big rocker. Then we waited. We waited for the sun to rise until its glow had brightened enough to fade out the red light on the stereo. I watched that red light the whole time while waiting. It was a constant, always on but only visible in the shadowy darkness that slept in our living room.
Then, when the light had broken through the shades, it was time to make coffee. Daddy would first make me a cup of chocolate milk. I’d sip that as he got out the bag of coffee beans and poured them into the grinder. He would hold my small fingers over the button until the beans were finely ground.
“Smell,” he’d say, and I’d let the rich aroma fill my nose. He’d help me measure the coffee and pour the water over it. We would wait for it to finish brewing, pour two cups out and stir in cream and sugar, using color to measure.
The first time I sipped that bitter liquid he laughed at my shocked face and tears of surprise.
“It tastes different from how it smells,” he managed to say through his laughter. I vowed I would never drink it again.
Now I realize that coffee, as a beverage enjoyed universally, unites us. My coffee aficionado dad spent a lot of time trying to teach me that. Sometimes, when we cannot see eye to eye, I know that we can always return to coffee brewing. It’s impossible to hold a grudge that early in the morning.
Even though I’m in high school now, I still rise early. Dad hears my footsteps plod downstairs and assumes that it’s time for him to make coffee. Perhaps I am his alarm clock, as I was as a toddler. While I groggily eat my cereal, shivering in the chilly kitchen, he brews coffee. He doesn’t actually have to open his eyes to perform this ritual, but he does anyway, smiling at me while I swirl my soggy cereal. Then he pours me a cup, and I dump cream and sugar. The pot will remain full all day for anyone who needs a pick-me-up or a taste of simple luxury.
Habit is a comfort, something that envelops us, a reminder of safety in the crazy world where we live. It’s something we don’t have to stretch ourselves to maintain but can simply achieve by being who we are. It’s habit that grounds us when we want to fly too high, and habit that binds me and my dad.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.