I walked out of Starbucks with my double tall nonfat iced latte, and in a feat of unhindered free association, I suddenly remembered my first experience with a "fancy" coffee drink.
Now, my first real acceptance of regular old black coffee came when I was an early teenager, hanging out with my older (cooler!) teenage cousins. They were in high school, old enough to determine their own fates on a weekend (because, you know, they could DRIVE), and living in a small enough town that one of the only places to go late in the evening was the truck stop, which had a 24-hour diner. And on one visit, for who knows what reason, I got invited along to one of these teenage truck stop hangouts, and since THEY were all drinking coffee, I did too. I come from a long line of coffee drinkers, so it really was only a matter of time. But the truck stop is my first memory of actually ordering a cup of coffee for myself.
But back to the "fancy" coffee drinks. Waaaaay before Starbucks was a thing, there was a little coffee bar in the downstairs entryway to the then-new Nordstrom's in the new wing of the Oak Brook shopping center. There was always a long line. And I don't remember the exact day or occasion - perhaps while doing some Christmas shopping, which is a very cold endeavor in an outdoor mall in Chicagoland - but we as a family stood in that long line, and ordered various milky, sweet, caffeinated drinks from this cramped coffee shop. I don't know exactly, but I'm guessing this was years before my teenage coffee-drinking days.
For my younger sisters, it was hot chocolate and not coffee. But my parents and I tried out different renditions of mochas - my mom got a raspberry mocha! - and fussed over the little shakers of chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg powders that we could sprinkle on top of our foamy drinks.
I'm not sure if this memory means anything in the grand scheme of things. Maybe it's a reminder of how things change, and how these special, almost-exotic coffee creations have become such a routine part of my days and weeks. Or maybe it's an excuse to think about all of the things - big AND small - that I've experienced with a family I love. Maybe it's just a memory; just nostalgia.
But on even a hot, muggy summer day like today, it is still good to feel warmed by an unexpected memory, an uninvited but more than welcome picture from the past, a small and simple nod to a good life and a great family.