I almost became frantic the other day when I discovered I was out of coffee.

You see, I had stopped by a store to get a few things a couple of days earlier when the clerk said they were out of the brand I wanted. It was on sale in a large enough container to last me weeks, so I was looking forward to getting the bargain.

I thought, that’s OK, I’d check with them later since I was sure I wasn’t completely out of the beverage at home. Low and behold, when I got up the next day to make a fresh pot, I only had about a teaspoon left and wanted to run out to the store on the spot.

With the coronavirus surging in the community, I thought I’d better wait until a more opportune time, especially since it wasn’t an emergency. Besides that, I hate going to the store for only one item. It’s a waste of time, energy and gas, if you ask me.

Anyway, I decided to make do with what I had and drink “stump water” as my father-in-law used to call watered down coffee. We both liked it strong and hearty.

I suppose I ran out of coffee because I’ve been drinking so much of it lately. That’s easy to do when you’re spending so much time working remotely. I also don’t consider myself one of those people who just has to have coffee in order to function in the morning. I simply enjoy it and can even drink regular coffee, not decaffeinated, at night before going to bed. It sometimes relaxes me.

I even think coffee smells better than it tastes and I don’t need the fancy kinds, just plain old brewed coffee — tall, dark, slightly sweet with a little creme.

The main reason I enjoy a good cup of coffee is because it reminds me of home when I was younger. There’s something about the aroma that takes me back to simpler times.

When I think back on the good times in our neighborhood, I remember the smell of coffee in the morning and perhaps a pot of greens, peas, beans or some other Southern fare in the afternoon.

And, it wasn’t only that way at my house. Where we lived on the west side, you could go to any of the neighbors’ homes and be greeted by a similar smell as well as a spanking if you were out of line.

One of my earliest memories was of Daddy sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee. I don’t remember the brand he liked, but back then it was probably whatever brand the neighborhood stores kept on hand. Anyway, sometimes he’d be outside very early. Once he even gave me the pleasure of making the instant coffee for him.

Like many people back then, we didn’t use cups with saucers as much as cups with bowls. He’d sometimes pour the liquid into the bowl and slurp it up or give me a taste.

I remember getting the coffee ready and instead of taking my time to get it to him, I rushed to get it to him and accidentally wasted it on his feet. I can still see him jumping up fussing, trying to cool off.

I began drinking coffee regularly when my best friend in college, Brenda, and I had breakfast in the cafeteria. I know things have changed with cafeteria offerings at colleges now, but back then, breakfast was the best meal of the day.

After graduating and landing my first job, the ladies in the office where I worked would gather around the coffee pot and catch up on life, work and I’m sure a bit of gossip.

One of my fondest memories, was going down home to Louisiana and having breakfast with my aunt and cousins. My older cousin, Rosie Lee, was like a mother to me.

When James, my late husband, and I would go down there, Rosie Lee would get up before dawn sometimes to make a variety of dishes such as buttered grits with a hint of garlic, sausage patties, bacon, scrambled eggs or sometimes even salmon croquettes served with rice, cat head biscuits and Johnny Fair Syrup. Rosie Lee didn’t like her coffee very strong, but she’d let us make it stronger if we wanted.

When she died two years ago, I went back for the homegoing and even spent the night at her house. Lots of people showed up at the church as well as the house and stayed for hours. We all mourned, laughed and talked. My cousin, Steve, even remarked that everything seemed the same except his mama wasn’t there.

That night I didn’t think I could sleep at her house alone. Everyone else was at their homes nearby, but I thought was going to toss and turn so I stayed up very late. The next thing I knew I had been to sleep, it was daylight and on the kitchen table was a strong hot cup of coffee. Rosie Lee’s daughter, Nina, left it for me and I never knew she had been in the house. She was sharing her mother’s love and keeping Rosie Lee’s tradition alive.

—- Sandra Hope is the editorial assistant and former city editor of The Commercial.