Lipstick Print on a China Cup


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Coffee doesn’t like me anymore. It upsets my stomach. But whenever I see someone walking down a city street, lidded paper cup in hand, I want one.

In my early 20’s, coffee and a cigarette started my day. On the way to work, I stopped in the lobby of the Erie County Welfare Department to buy a coffee and a buttered roll before stepping into the elevator. In college and away from home for the first time, coffee made me feel alert, ready for anything. Safe. An anxious kid, holding and sipping that hot dark cup of Joe made me feel sophisticated. Like I belonged to the tribe of grownups.

This thread winds back to my two aunts at our family’s Formica kitchen table, talking and laughing. Their coffee was light and creamy, and the rims of their cups held the print of their red lipstick. Cigarette smoke plumed from an ashtray. They cared about me and I loved them back.

Follow the thread even farther back to an open house at Bigelow Sanford Carpet Mills, my Uncle Clarence standing beside a loom so high it reached far above his head, or so it seemed to me. Laughing, he offered me a cup of coffee and I was mute, serious. My father said it was a joke, my uncle was only kidding. I was too young for coffee, for sophistication.

I grew up to love the bitter taste of strong black coffee, but now it bothers my stomach. I switched to decaf then tea in the morning. I thought I’d build up a ritual with tea, evoking England, gentility, scones….

But old habits are hard to break. Once or twice a week, at coffee hour after the church service, or during a morning of writing, I treat myself to a cup of Joe. Because I’m forever captured by the image of red lipstick prints on the rims of china cups. The stamps of women who loved me when they were younger than I am now.


What about you? Is there a habit you can trace to your childhood? Comment here and I’ll put your name in the drawing for a copy of The Collection: Flash Fiction for Flash Memory. One of my stories is included in this beautiful anthology of stories for the memory impaired (or the short of reading time!)

The winner of last month’s drawing is Marielena Zuniga. She gets a signed copy of Anna Quindlen’s novel, Miller’s Valley. Congratulations, Marielena!



18 thoughts on “Lipstick Print on a China Cup

  1. It’s funny how coffee can take us back to our childhood. It makes me wonder why we think (or used to think) of it as so sophisticated. I also step back from it now and then but always go back because it’s like an old friend. It seems like it’s “thicker” than tea (is that even possible?). I guess it’s just a comfort food after all.


    1. My first meal of the day no matter what time..7am or 5pm must be breakfast.. preferably Cheerios and milk .Been doing this since I could pour from the box on my own.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Toast and peanut butter, grabbed every morning as I ran out the door on the way to school, ate the meal while walking to school. Still like it, but don’t eat it often and never while walking anyplace!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds pretty good. I sometimes make it for an afternoon snack. Thanks for the nice picture in my mind of a little girl eating peanut butter on toast as she walks to school. 😉


  3. Although many people seem to need their coffee fix every morning, I just can’t relate. I never liked even the smell. A handful of times someone has offered me a cup in a way that I couldn’t refuse. I had to bravely get it down my throat without gagging. Not sophisticated.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Coffee! Coffee! Coffee! Seems like all my friends and family and the world around me have their favorite brands and many of them drink it black. I have 6 ounces with extra cream every morning and that is it for the day! I am more apt to get my caffeine fix during the day with a diet coke and a McDonald’s biscuit! (It is embarrassing that all of the folks working in the Micky-D’s drive-thrus in our area know who will be driving around to window #1 when they hear my order: Senior diet coke with no ice and a plain biscuit! $2.00)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Linda,

    For some reason I was unable to reply to your post. It wanted me to register and become a blogger…so here is my comment to your “charming” post, as someone called it.

    I came very late to coffee-I would guess in my 30’s, when it seemed necessary. In contrast to you, it never seemed sophisticated to me. I may have been affected by my mother’s view of my father’s method of drinking coffee. He would pour it in the saucer of the blue Currier and Ives cup so that it would cool off more quickly and then slurp it from the saucer, garnering a cross look from my mother. She was a tea drinker all the way!

    Sorry you weren’t with us today. Hope you got done what you wanted to do!



    Liked by 1 person

  6. Coffee, the smell brings forth the memories when my father loved me. Before my mother passed away, I was the apple of my father’s eye. Whenever he’d make coffee, I’d tell him to make a cup for me. And he really loved me wanting to join him. I still remember the coffee he made, strong and creamy. Ah, those were the times when the world was beautiful and safe. Even today whenever I feel a bit down, a nice cup of coffee, strong and creamy takes me to my happy place.

    Liked by 1 person

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