What’s really in a cup of Coffee?

A few nights ago, I found myself sharing favorite Cape Cod coffee spots with my cousin Sarah who was on vacation visiting her boyfriend’s family in Sandwich. “Don’t forget Nirvana in Barnstable, remember going there with Nona and the girls?” Cool summer mornings clad in flip-flops and shorts meant a visit to one of our best-loved coffee shops along 6A. On those long ago summer days, a stop for coffee meant much more than a dose of caffeine, it signaled a sacred opportunity to just be with people we loved.

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When I think back to those days and ponder how the coffee tradition started, I can hear the quiet voice of my mom whisper “treat yourself.” Over the years, mom used to tell my sister and me to “treat yourself” which meant to grab a coffee and savor its warm, sweet goodness when life got stressful. She felt this small indulgence would help us get through difficult days as young professionals and young moms. I think her point was more about being good to ourselves, rather than the coffee itself. She often advised that if we treated ourselves with kindness, we would feel better inside and function more happily and contentedly in this life.

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Mom and dad loved to host our families at their lovely gray and white East Sandwich home on Cape Cod. When all of the women gathered at the Cape with mom – sisters daughters, granddaughters and nieces – the coffee outing rose to a whole new level. We all piled into the biggest SUV in the driveway and drove happily down historic 6A in search of another hidden coffee spot. The journey was as magical as the destination with all the women in our family happily singing and chatting along the way. On most outings, the ages in the car ranged from under 10 to 70+. Once we reached the coveted shop, we tumbled out of the car and lined up to give our various coffee orders. Once we all had our precious coffees in hand, we pulled Adirondack chairs into a circle and treated ourselves to each other’s company. That was the best treat of all!

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Year later, when I was taking mom into Dana Farber for chemo treatments, the tables turned a bit and I was the one offering advice. On one of our first trips I said, “Let’s get coffee before treatment mom.” This unexpected treat helped us both adjust to our new life schedule as we happily discovered delicious, flavored coffees in the lobby of Dana Farber. It became our ritual to plan enough time for our coffee treat, before heading up for the chemo treatment. This helped both mom and me.

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Mom’s advice to treat yourself came full circle from helping her daughters learn how to be kind to themselves to helping her remember how to be patient and trusting during the toughest part of her cancer journey. We continued to share many different types of coffee together during her 3 year battle with cancer and she thoroughly enjoyed every sip. It didn’t matter if we were drinking hazelnut or a soy latte – the effect was always the same, intimacy and joy in the moment. I am truly thankful for her sage advice and cherish these memories from the crazy trips down 6A with all the women in our family to the quiet conversations in the lobby of Dana Farber. Every encounter involved a cup of coffee. But the coffee was just a vehicle which drew people together and allowed them to grow in love and kindness.

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