I first wrote parts of this column at Thanksgiving decades ago, and have, over the years, duplicated it at times in some form or fashion. If some of it sounds familiar, it’s because, well, it is.
With that said, I pose the question, have you ever slurped your coffee?
It is an odd question, I know, but sometimes when I pour a cup of coffee my mind drifts back to 1970 and breakfast at the Big Table at Herbie and Delia Mae’s. Herbie died in 1973 and Delia Mae left us in 1996. They were my grandparents.
Granddaddy always sat at the head of the table. When I was visiting, most mornings he was up and dressed before daybreak and ready for Granny to drive him to work in Forest before I awakened. She would always ask me the night before if I wanted to go with them on the early morning trek. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. After he died I wished I had gone more.
On the weekends, Granddaddy not only sat at the head of the table, he “was” the head of the table. On Saturday mornings, right beside him Paul Harvey was playing loudly on the radio. On Sundays we’d have our coffee and scrambled eggs and head to church at Damascus where the choir sang Amazing Grace without any music. The choir sang that old song at both of their funerals too. Amazing Grace never sounded any sweeter than it did at Damascus.
Breakfast was first though, and it was at the Big Table that Granddaddy taught me how to slurp coffee. It only took one lesson. I was a very good pupil.
I suppose slurping is one of those old-timey things. For those not familiar with the process, it requires lifting a coffee cup from its saucer and pouring the coffee from the cup into the saucer. The saucer is then carefully lifted with the thumb and forefinger of both hands toward the mouth. At that point the holder blows on the hot coffee a couple of times before slurping it down.
Slurping is a thing done with a person’s lips and lungs. Keeping the lips in kind of a kissing position they are maneuvered next to the saucer and the coffee is then sucked into the mouth as the lips kind of flop together. The combined effect and the noise it makes is called slurping. Back when I was a kid at Delia Mae and Herbie’s slurping was very popular!
These days, regular readers of this column know that my wife, Danny, and I now live in that same old house on the hill. Herbie and Delia Mae’s house. We’ve been restoring it for several years and likely will be for the rest of our lives. For the last few holidays we’ve had our Thanksgiving dinner at that same old table in that same old dining room. The Big Table.
This year things will be much different. My mom, Herbie and Delia Mae’s eldest child, died two months ago and for the first time in my life she won’t be at the Thanksgiving dinner table with us.
Ever since we moved into the house she sat to my left at the table and my dad took Herbie’s spot at the head of the table. Danny sat to my right and our daughter Rachel-Johanna sat between my mom and dad. That obviously will change.
Granny’s gone. Granddaddy too. On September 29th Mom left us to join them in Heaven, and yes, Amazing Grace was sung acappella at her funeral. I love them all dearly. I miss them — my mom especially this year. The house, I think, keeps us close. It was my great grandfather’s first, followed by my grandparents’ and then my mom’s until she gifted it to us. It was the gift of much more than a house, though, it was a gift of sweet memories.
Things will indeed be different, but in my mind’s eye, as in years past, I see Granddaddy sitting at the head of the table. I see him pouring his coffee from that yellowed cup into his saucer. I see his lips purse and blow on the dark liquid. His breath sends ripples across the coffee and I hear him slurping it down. The expression on his face says it is good.
This year I can feel my mom sitting to my left. I can see her as she takes a bite. I watch as she chews and swallows her food, and the smile I see growing on her face says, “I’m okay son, all is good.”
For the memories, I am most thankful.