Coming of Age Fiction African American

The first thing that hits my senses is the rich, earthly base note of freshly brewed coffee beans. It’s a deep and robust scent that lingers in the air, promising a bold and invigorating start to the day. It’s like a warm familiar embrace which wraps around you as soon as you enter the small kitchen.  As I approach the kitchen the source of the aroma hits my nostrils I begin to detect subtle hints of toasted caramel and chocolate. The sweet compliments of the coffee’s natural bitterness. The harmonious balance dances in the air around me. 

The steam rising from the cup adds a touch of moisture in the air like a faint cloud of warmth. It’s a gentle reminder that I am in a place where I can relax and savor the simple pressures of just being in Nana’s kitchen. Combined with the loud hum of Nana’s coffee percolator, the overall scent is a sensory delight which beckons me to join the morning ritual, promising not just a caffeine boost but moments of love and cherished memories which I will be able to pass on to my children and grandchildren in the future. 

The warm morning sun streamed through the old light brown shutters in the kitchen, casting a gentle yellow glow on the small cozy kitchen. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee filled the air and mingled with the scent of freshly baked apple walnut and blueberry muffins. Nana’s kitchen was a mix of vintage charm and modern conveniences. The porcelain dishes passed down from generation to generation were displayed in a glass cabinet near the old percolator which Nana made her morning coffee in and the espresso machine my sister had brought for her last year on the white counter. 

Nana, a petite woman with light brown  skin and red hair sat at the oblong kitchen table. She was dressed in the light blue and white bathrobe I had given her for Christmas with a floral apron tied around her waist. She placed a cup of steaming coffee in front of me. I sat across the table from her also dressed in my old red and white bathrobe and my bunny slippers. Nana took a long sip of her coffee. Some people might say that Nana and I are the spitting image of each other with the same warm smile and kind brown eyes. 

“Nothing beats a good cup of hot coffee in the morning, Ava.” Nana said.

“I agree with you. Nothing does except for one of your freshly baked blueberry muffins.” I said.

Nana put a blueberry muffin on a blue saucer and passed it to me across the table. 

“This takes me back to the times I sat right here at this table with your grandpa each morning before he went to work. He always had to have his coffee and eggs, scrambled soft and his piece of toast with apricot preserves and absolutely no butter. I sure do miss that man.” Nana said. 

I smiled at Nana and took a long sip of my coffee and a small bite of my muffin. 

“I’ve heard so many stories about you and grandpa. I am so sad that I never got to meet grandpa. You two had quite the adventurous life, didn’t you?” I said.

“ Yes we certainly did. I remember the summer we traveled the country in an old VW van your grandpa, John, had brought from his cousin, Vinny. That thing barely ran and I am surprised that we made it to Atlanta to cousin Jessie’s house. By the time we got there it was in the middle of a heatwave. It had to be at least 100 degrees and it felt like 200 degrees. We had a fish fry every night we were there in Jessie’s backyard. Times were simpler back then and so was life. Life was filled with lots of love, adventure and laughter. We had the best of times. We were supposed to have many more of those times but it didn’t work out that way. I wish that you would have known your grandpa. He would have loved you to pieces. You would have had so much fun with him.” 

Nana’s eyes filled with nostalgia and tears. She took another sip of her coffee and tried to smile. 

My gaze turned to the vintage photos on the wall of grandpa and other family members. Most of which had long passed away before I was born. There were also pictures of friends they had met along the way on all of their adventures. I loved looking at that wall. 

“I wish that I could have experienced those times with you and Grandpa. These days everything feels so fast and overly complicated.” I said.

Nana reached across the table and put her hand on mine.

“Yes, sweetheart, the times have changed but what has not changed is  the heart of the family. The heart of the family is all about love and support being there for each other no matter what.” Nana said.

Nana and I shared a moment of shared understanding. Nana’s eyes turned to a photo on the wall of her younger self and Grandpa. They were sitting in their backyard under the plum tree in the far corner of the yard. Nana said that used to be her favorite place to sit and watch the sunset. She loved the aroma of the plums on the tree. Every year she would pick them and make plum jam for her family and friends. By the time summer was over she would have mason jars which would line the kitchen counters and shelves with plum jam. It would take her all summer to give them away and sell them at the farmer’s market but she loved making the jam and most of all she loved seeing the smiles on the people’s faces when they opened the jars and spread the jam on pieces of toasted bread and crackers. They loved eating it as much as she loved making it. 

“Your Grandpa used to say that the best part of any journey was the company you keep. That is also true for living life to. Your Grandpa and I have lived through our share of ups and downs that life threw at us. But, we always managed to get through them and stayed strong. I will never forget the day your Grandpa went to heaven. He was not feeling well. He hadn’t been feeling for a week. He thought it was the flu but I knew that it was more than the flu. It took me days to convince him to go to the hospital. He hated hospitals and said that nothing good came out of the hospital except newborn babies. I drove him there and they said he had an infection. The infection went through his body and he never came home. He passed away six days after he got there. We were supposed to take a trip to London that year. It was on his bucket list. But, we never made it.” Nana said.

I reached across the table and patted Nana’s hand. 

“I am grateful for you, Nana. I love you more than you know.” I said.

“I love you too, Ava. I love you to the moon and back.” Nana said, smiling. 

“I have an idea. Why don’t you and I go to London this summer? It’ll be fun. We can do all the things that you and Grandpa would have done in memory of him. What do you think?” I asked.

“I think that is a wonderful idea. And I know that you are the future of the family, you and your cousins and I have no doubt that all of you will carry on all of the family traditions with grace and love.” Nana said.

Nana reached over the table and affectionately took my hand in hers. We continued sipping our coffee as the morning sunlight continued to wrap us up in its warmth. Sitting with Nana in her kitchen the past and present blended together like the perfect cup of coffee.

October 04, 2023 17:49

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