Writer, author, memoir teacher. I write about the connections we find by giving each other the time and space to be heard.

December Dreaming

I juggled a salted caramel latte with my purse and bag of drugstore sundries as I opened my door. Inhaling the warm comforting aroma of my coffee, an old man’s voice came back to me. “My son said to get a lah-tayyyy,” he said, drawing the word out with a little smile. He was amused to meet me at Starbucks for an interview. It was 2007, and I worked for a small weekly paper. He had just published a book, In the Name of the Children, about his career as a public health pediatrician. He told me stories about his work on an Apache reservation in Arizona (his first job post-medical school), in Turkey with the Peace Corps (where tearful Turks broke the news of President Kennedy’s assassination) and Biafra during the 1968 civil war. And there were others.

A gentle, friendly man with a ready smile, he asked how far I’d driven, and handed me a copy of his book, first making sure I promised to return it to the newspaper office when I was finished reading it “for reference.” It was a good read, but meeting the man was better. I asked if he’d never been to Starbucks before, and he shook his head, amused. I sipped my decaf Americano at our small table, and he told me exactly where, on my way home, to find the house of his son,”the chef,” a father’s pride lighting his smile.

My 2022 latte was free, from my convenience store rewards app. I don’t think we had apps in 2007. I sure didn’t. I didn’t need a latte then or now. I consume more than my share of the earth’s resources. I try to be careful. I recycle, but I fall for discounts and sales and rewards apps like they are gifts to me from the gods of capitalism.

And I’m not giving up my chai tea lattes. They are little treats that cheer me, and I appreciate them like all the other rewards of my American life. And sometimes they remind me of the late Dr. Chris Hansen, humanitarian. After our interview, he headed off to his volunteer job tutoring students at a soup kitchen for their high school equivalency diplomas (GED), five days a week.

Do you have a longheld memory? Share with us in the comments. And happy holidays!

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