When we asked you to share your stories of connection with us, we couldn't have even imagined the comfort, tears, and even laughs that were to come. While we were blown away by how many of you let us in on your personal bonds, we weren't all too surprised to see how many of them begin with coffee.
Congratulations to Rebekah Holmes, the winner of our Mother's Day essay contest, who received a year of coffee to share with her mom. Her timely story of a mother's determination to find connection despite distance was particularly poignant. We're sharing her essay here, with a few more favorites — who also received a bag of coffee to gift to mom — for us all to cherish.
My mother continuously surprises me with her thoughtful, caring nature. My fiancé and I are scheduled to be married at the end of this month, and as you can imagine the plans we had for our wedding have undergone some significant changes in light of COVID-19.
In the midst of sad and difficult decisions, my mom has been incredibly patient and supportive, despite living halfway across the country from me. Last week, I received an unexpected package from her. Upon opening it, I found a bundle of letters and one of her china cups and saucers. She had written me a letter for every day this month so that with each morning leading up to the wedding I could sit down with my coffee and soak in a little bit of encouragement and some wise words from my momma — even though she can’t be with me in person to share them at the moment.
It may seem like a small gesture, but it came at just the right time to help me feel a little closer to home while navigating a tough season. For now, I will continue to enjoy her handwritten notes from afar as I sip on my coffee and look forward to a few short weeks from now when I will be sharing a morning cup of coffee with her in person on my wedding day.
— Rebekah Holmes
Coffee for Two
Growing up, it was just my mom and I. I was raised by my mother, a single-parent who emigrated from Vietnam with a high-school education and a dream. That dream was to provide more for her only child, to give that child an opportunity of a better life.
My mom had two jobs, sometimes three, and worked odd hours; she wasn’t able to be there for the school play or cultural performance or science fair display. But she carved out these moments throughout the day for us to catch up and connect.
One of those moments was over her morning cup of coffee. Some days the cup was filled Vietnamese coffee (cà phê sữa), other days Folgers Classic Roast, and on especially busy mornings Nescafé Instant Coffee. The smell of coffee hung between us, as we shared our plans for the day.
After so many years, this ritual is still going strong. I see her every other Sunday (I work the other Sundays at the hospital) to catch up and connect over a cup of coffee – and to be reminded that life is made up of these small moments.
— Qui Cao
Mom to the Rescue
When I was 20-years-old and finishing my last semester of college, I found myself struggling deeply with my mental health. As I sunk deeper into the darkness of my own mind, I began letting go of all that I cared about: my schoolwork, my job, my relationships, and my physical health. The pressure felt so heavy in my head and heart, that I found myself struggling to breathe daily - but I did not ask for help. I did not ask for help, because I did not know how to articulate or describe the fog that had overcome me. I was physically and mentally shrinking, with no hope in sight, until one day my mom arrived with suitcase in hand. I needed her; and even if I didn't know it, she did.
"... somewhere between the warm mug in my hands and her comforting presence across from me, I began to find myself again."
Every morning for three weeks, we went to this café around the corner from campus. We worked, we talked, and we drank coffee - and over time, I began to unpack all that I had held in for so long. It was only the first step in a long mental health journey, but somewhere between the warm mug in my hands and her comforting presence across from me, I began to find myself again. Thanks to her, I finished school and was accepted into my dream graduate school program. This picture, which I took the first morning she arrived — now over five years ago — reminds me every day of how lucky I am to have her as my mom.
A Full Life
Wonder-mom (and wonder-wife) is what we like to call her. She's beautiful, kind, gentle, loving, nurturing, empowering and encouraging. Self-giving, sacrificial, selfless. Watching her give life and pour her life into our two little ones has been one of the most beautiful images of sacrificial love I've ever witnessed.
She's overcome a lot (and given up a lot!) to give these little humans love, nurture, life, stability, and it's our pausing, slowing down, and connecting over a cup of coffee (or two, or three, or four!) where we laugh, process, encourage, and grow together. It's where she gets poured into, encouraged, built up, and nourished. It's where she shares her struggles, her joys, her triumphs, her failures. It's where she hears, "You're a great mom... A great wife... I see all the things you do, and how you give yourself... You're Wonder-mom, and you're loved."
Coffee is a staple in our household, primarily for this routine, or ritual even, we've created, that allows us to slow down and connect in such a deep way. She pours into those kiddos with everything she is. So it's always a joy to pour her another cup, and to slow down long enough to be present with her in the moment.
— Blake Waller
... Just Like Mom
I started drinking coffee from an early age. I was a short, petite kid and people would often say, “Drinking coffee stunts your growth!" But I didn’t care. Growing up, coffee was an integral part of my home. My mom was an avid coffee drinker. It wasn’t about staying awake or being more productive - she genuinely enjoyed sitting in the morning sipping her coffee and reading the newspaper.
Having access to coffee was essential; before going on vacation, one of the first things my mom would look into was the coffee situation, and it was always a plus if the hotel had a coffee shop in it. My mom is truly a “renaissance woman” — a one-of-a-kind mother, friend, physical therapist, and chef — and I wanted to be just like her. And so, I too wanted to drink coffee.
My mom has guided my coffee journey; At first I started with what we called special coffee (mostly mocha with a little bit of coffee). From there it progressed to coffee with French vanilla coffee mate creamer, and then ultimately to trying different coffee blends from around the world - without sugar (but still with some milk). Having a good cup of coffee from a new coffee shop, or trying new beans is definitely still something to “call home about."
"Coffee has always been our 'love language' of bonding."
Coffee has always been our "love language" of bonding. Throughout middle school and high school, on some days as a treat, I would forego my usual form of transportation in favor of going with my mom so we could stop for coffee on the way. My mom had been going to the same coffee store every morning for almost 20 years. The workers all knew her, and I felt like a celebrity when I went with her. They were interested in me, being my mom’s daughter, and would continue to ask about me on days when I wasn’t with my mom. There was a true sense of camaraderie, among the workers and the other customers, all engaging in our morning coffee ritual. The mornings I got to go get coffee with my mom were so special to me. We would enjoy our coffee together and just talk before we both separated for school and work. I can’t think of a better way to start the day.
Throughout college and now medical school, every time I would return home for breaks or visits, we always have multiple coffee outings planned. I always look forward to those outings and coffee has always brought us closer together. If we can’t think of an “activity” to do, we often will “just” go out for coffee, and to us, that is enough. We can spend hours in a coffee shop or at the kitchen table, enjoying our coffee and chatting. Even now, during the coronavirus when I am not with my mom, we still find a way to enjoy coffee together. We have planned coffee dates where we video chat with our coffee, either in the morning or with our afternoon cup. No matter what is going on in the world, or around us, coffee still continues to play a central role in our relationship.
My mom instilled within me a love for coffee. One of the first questions I asked my husband when we were dating was “Do you drink coffee?” (luckily the answer was yes). It's not just about the taste or the caffeine, but the associations of love, family, and bonding that drinking coffee brings. I was lucky enough to go with my mom to the New York Coffee Festival where we tried different brews, and were around the buzzing excitement of fellow coffee lovers. It was such a fun experience, and I was happy to be able to share it with my mom. I hope to share my love of coffee with my own children and look forward to having three generations of coffee drinkers around a table together.
— Jen Sykes
From Spain with Love
Since my own mom has never been much of a coffee drinker, I wanted to send in an entry for the mother of my two children. Before marrying her, I never understood the appeal to coffee. In our early years of marriage, I slowly began to see the benefits of caffeine in the morning. Still, though, coffee for me was far from the daily ritual it was for my wife.
This all changed when we took our first trip together to Spain. It was while in Spain that I, for the first time, began to understand what my wife had been saying all along about coffee. During our time there we spent every morning finding a new local coffee shop in whatever town we were staying. There we would take as much time as needed to enjoy a cup of coffee, take in the surrounding scenes of an unfamiliar town, and discuss our plans for that day. You can see one of those moments captured in this photo.
By the time we arrived back in the states we had begun a new tradition of starting every day with a shared pot of coffee whether we were at home or spending a day in an unfamiliar city.
"... coffee was no longer simply a second alarm for me. It was, instead, an opportunity to take a breath, prepare for the craziness of our day, and to spend a few minutes together."
Since that first trip, coffee was no longer simply a second alarm for me. It was, instead, an opportunity to take a breath, prepare for the craziness of our day, and to spend a few minutes together before we headed off to our respective jobs.
This tradition, which started years before having our first child, only took on greater meaning and importance once our first child was born. Like any parents of young kids, we were quickly overwhelmed by the fatigue and craziness that comes every day with a newborn. In those early morning hours as we gathered the strength to get through another day, it was that same daily cup of coffee that both gave us a boost of energy as well as an opportunity to take a breath, appreciate the moment, and prepare for the day ahead.
We now have two children and our lives feel no less hectic than they did in those first days with a newborn in the house. This has been particularly true in the recent days spent in quarantine. Yet, regardless of how hectic the morning is or how many things need to get done, I am still incredibly thankful that we look to start out just about every morning sharing a pot of coffee, taking a breath, taking in the scene all around us, and discussing our plans for the day. Regardless of the context in which that coffee is enjoyed, every time I see the mother of my children take her first sip of coffee in the morning, my mind goes back to this picture and to the tradition that was created so many years ago on those peaceful mornings in Spain. I will always be thankful for that trip and I will always have my wife (and the mother of my children) to thank for the daily pleasure I now find in my morning cup of coffee.
— Benjamin Beswick