All day yesterday, my coffee tasted wrong.
If you know me at all, you know this is more than a minor inconvenience. It is a Problem. And it nagged at me all day long, through successive cups.
Maybe I’ve burnt my tongue, I thought, but since I was pain free and food tasted fine this didn’t seem to be the case. I then began to have evil thoughts about the coffee beans themselves. Not fresh, perhaps. Maybe my roaster is losing his touch. Maybe one of the kids left the bag unsealed. Or maybe this is a Full Scale Tragedy and I just don’t love coffee as much as I used to.
This morning, bleary eyed and fending off a wicked headache, I pulled the Half and Half out of the fridge and saw what I had missed yesterday: this substance is an impostor. Somebody slipped the word Fat Free into the label while I was sleeping. I stood and blinked at this anomaly for a full minute before I was able to grasp the reality.
On the day I bought the alleged Half and Half, I was in a hurry. The stock person had a cart right in front of the creamer section and I was obviously in his way while searching for my item of choice. My usual brand had an expiration stamped on it that was way too close to the end of this week and so I put out my hand and grabbed the more expensive carton sitting right next to it. The one that said in big bold letters HALF AND HALF. Hey, I told myself. It’s more expensive, but nothing is too good for my coffee.
What I missed was in big letters: FAT FREE. This is such an anomaly that I totally missed it. Why would anybody buy fat free Half and Half? Especially when there is milk in the refrigerator. Seriously. If I want milk in my coffee, I have milk. Lots of it, because the teenage boys drink it as though it were the elixir of life.
Milk would be healthier. Just for fun, I compared the labels on a carton of the Real Thing with the Impostor. The Real Thing has 40 calories per serving, most of it fat. The Impostor has 20 calories and no fat. Clearly the Fat Free version is healthier, right?
Not so fast. Ingredients on the Half and Half? Milk and Cream. That’s it. Natural ingredients, made by cows. The Fat Free version, which I’m relieved to discover is also 100% Oil Free, contains Fat Free Milk, Milk, Corn Syrup, Artificial Color, Sodium Citrate, Dipotassium phosphate, Mono and Diglycerides, Carrageenan, and Vitamin A Palmitate. Oh, and hey – it has no gluten in it! Again, relief. I totally expected that my creamer would have gluten.
We all know that chemicals, corn syrup, and artificial color are important components of a healthy diet, so I should probably switch over to the Fat Free version.
Um, yeah. Heading out momentarily to buy some genuine Half and Half. The kind with cream in it. Looking forward to a perfect cup of coffee.
Last year about this time, I sat in this very same coffee shop distracting myself from the emotional wreckage of launching Son Number One out into the Big Wide World. Or, at least, College. Big and wild enough for starters.
You spend 18 years feeding, clothing, educating, protecting, and guiding your offspring, and then you just drive them to a strange place, drop them off and drive away. There’s this inescapable feeling that you have just abandoned your beloved child, who will certainly be torn apart by lions or eaten by sharks or -
Oh, right. Neither of those predators is likely to reach him here. Although, life is a strange and twisty thing, and how can you know for sure?
Anyway. After awhile you get used to the kid being gone. The house doesn’t seem empty. You don’t lie awake waiting for that particular set of footsteps on the stairs and remind yourself they are walking elsewhere tonight. And then, just when things are re-adjusted, said child comes home for the summer. And then you get to do it all over again.
Interesting parallel with the writing. The novel formerly known as Swimming North was ready for queries last fall, at the same time as said College Boy left home. In fact, I sat in this very coffee shop reading an email from an agent who expressed a good deal of interest. But that didn’t quite work out, and the novel came home to spend more time with me. A new and extensive revision completed, it is almost ready to launch back out into the world.
I’d like to believe it will be easier than the first time around, but I suspect it will be much like dropping the beloved son off at college. For good or ill, there is no way of avoiding heartache.