Yesterday’s Coffee, Tomorrow’s Muse

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“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” – T.S. Eliot (From the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock)

Yesterday’s Coffee, as a blog title, has been brewing on the back burner of my mind since last summer, when Maria Stuart of LivingstonTalk.com — the new online community for Michigan’s Livingston County – asked me to blog.  I did, but my blog didn’t have a title; it didn’t really need one at the time. However, that experience got me to wondering. What would I call my blog series, if I wanted to name it?

Last September my husband and I were camping in northern Michigan with his father.  One morning the men got out on the lake early to fish. Of course I’d slept in, so they returned to find only leftover coffee. Our camper has a microwave. We nuked the cold brew before making a new pot; and that’s when my father-in-law suddenly smiled, and came out with some saying about “Yesterday’s Coffee.”

Whatever he said was catchy; and I’m sure I wrote it down, but can’t find my notes. The gist, though, was that yesterday’s coffee was pretty good — and that it was an old song title!  A song?

Hmmm, I was thinking. Song or not, that could be a great blog title for me. So, I parked the idea away for a year.  And, who knew!  Dozens of others had the same idea, I discover. Everyone from a music group on Facebook to another blogger who changed his to “Reheated Coffee” (perhaps we’ll meet up sometime and rehash all this), to forums and surveys about leftover coffee – and, even a website devoted to funny jokes, called “Yesterday’s Coffee.”

It’s amazing how things work. Once you begin homing in on an idea simmering on the periphery of your consciousness, like pigeons aloft in flight, all manner of facts and events come into view.  Get enough of them, and you can make your landing.

Soon as I decided it was time to focus on my coffee theme, things began popping up. Coffee cup designs decorate the napkins I recently bought; even the paper towels sport coffee quotes. “Wake up and smell the coffee!”  Kind of overused, but it will do when in crisis mode.

“With enough coffee, anything is possible!” That would be my favorite.  I truly believe that, especially if the coffee is:  chocolate-vanilla-almond-maple-Jamaican-mocha-hazelnut, or some exotic concoction of flavors. If you drink yesterday’s coffee, though, can you be a coffee snob?

At this point in my life, yesterday’s coffee takes on new meaning. Beyond my own life story of remembered good coffee times, I’m beginning to feel swept up into the current of a very fast moving river. The other day, I was clearing space, making room for my future projects – tomorrow’s muse.

A wave of amazement flowed over me, realizing a box I was sorting held hundred-year-old letters from my mom’s parents.  One piece of antique parchment-colored paper unfolded to reveal a marriage certificate. It’s huge, with cutouts for photos of the bridal couple, and the pastor, as well. No, there are no photos, the paper is worn, and the dates are faint, but I’m sure it says Jan 1, 1900. That blows my mind, of course. I’ll have to check with my cousin, probably the only one of the family left that would know.

Genealogists must have a field day over cups and cups of yesterday’s coffee. I can picture them reaching for the strongest brew — reheating it, while propping their eyelids open to go after just one more clue, with detective-like precision and tenacity. Guess that’s why I keep procrastinating. A former co-worker of mine would love to know I found this stuff.  She has admonished me time and again for not working on my family tree, figuring it will never happen in her lifetime. We shared many office cups of coffee over that muse.

Well, as I pondered what to do with my stash — this legacy from my grandparents — I dusted things off to store in a better place.  Imagining those times, I saw my grandparents sitting at their great oak table. Actually, it’s easy to picture that, since I sit at that table.  It’s the one thing I’m glad I said ‘Yes’ for when no one else in the family could take it, back when. When, meaning as young newlyweds, we started out dining on a picnic table.

I can imagine nearly a century of yesterday’s coffee being shared by all the people who’ve gathered around my grandma’s table, because I grew up with it. Instead of  today’s coffee by the computer, and dashing off an email, I see them searching for paper and pen from their tall secretary desk, drawing up a chair over at the big round dining table – the hub of activity in the home.  With elbow room to spread out stationery supplies, cup and saucer, sugar,  cream, spoon, they’d  be sipping and thoughtfully writing those letters to loved ones….what would wind up being tomorrow’s muse for me to  see  and  cast my own muse upon, over  a cup of yesterday’s coffee.

Now that the format for Livingston Talk is a new creation, I sense this is the time for my blog to be a new creation, as well. So I’ll go with “Yesterday’s Coffee, Tomorrow’s Muse.”

You could be wondering where I came up with “Tomorrow’s Muse.” Well, I’m a product of a longtime group of women (originally and affectionately called, “The Tuesday Breakfast Club”) who’ve met monthly since our kids were toddlers. Until recently, we would meet without fail at a local restaurant. Dare I say the habit began about 30 years ago?

Yes, I’m that old; and that’s where “tomorrow’s muse” comes in. I think back fondly on those years of downing cup after cup of coffee with our breakfast group, discussing everything from yesterday’s happenings to tomorrow’s news. So, in contrast to what the literary folks write about T.S. Eliot’s measuring life in coffee spoons, as being mundane — in the context of my life, there’s sweetness to the sound of that line.  That is, I look back on yesterday’s coffee times, the countless coffee cups and spoons, as the chatter, which (like a cheery church supper in your mind) becomes tomorrow’s muse.

Am I making any sense with this? As I see it, I’m always musing over yesterday’s events, and I muse a lot about tomorrow’s while enjoying my own yesterday’s coffee. You could interpret it in a lot of ways.  But I like the sound of it — like the full circle of life or something — sharing pleasant moments of life with your family and friends over coffee (or tea, of course).

A Christmas gathering with my breakfast buddies was one such occasion.  The person among us who loves coffee, even more than I do, gave us each a slim little brown book – Coffee Talk: A celebration of Good Coffee and Good Friends by Ellyn Sanna. The author describes perfectly one reason why I appreciated those breakfast meetings with friends.

Being a young mother (as we all were when we began the breakfast coffee tradition), Sanna writes: “So when I escaped last Saturday to our local diner to meet a friend for breakfast, how good it felt to have someone wait on me for a change.”

For me, you see, there’s a touch of blessed hospitality to counting coffee spoons, especially when measuring time with friends. The T.S. Eliot quote, which Sanna shares in her book, adds a new dimension to my thinking about this. What is life, but finding wonder in the mundane moments? Back in 1919, when Eliot wrote that, my grandparents were living mundane moments, no doubt, while recording them lovingly in the letters they’d send.

As for songs about yesterday’s coffee, most lyrics seem to churn along Eliot’s humdrum tune. So, I’m curious to know which song my father-in-law used to croon. As I reheat, I’ll keep looking for the right one, the one that speaks to the joy in yesterday’s coffee, and sings of tomorrow’s muse.

“Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow…yesterday’s gone….yesterday’s gone.” – Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac

About Susan Parcheta 100 Articles
Susan G Parcheta dreamed of being an inspirational writer, even as heading off after college to a teaching job. While teaching was not her passion, words were -- writing many years for Livingston newspapers, especially in the areas of education, health and wellness. The dream continues: to inspire creative, healthy living and to explore new concepts of body, mind, spirit. Her signature theme “All Things Beautiful” invites you to embrace the beauty and imagine the possibilities that life has to offer. She lives in Gregory with her husband, Jerry, and their fluffy, pointy-eared -- and always lovable -- cat, Spock.