Latte Memories

One of the perks (pardon the pun) of going to Flywheel at 6am is that by the time I’m showered and headed to work, Benelux is open. This morning in particular, something about a pumpkin spice latte called to me.

Now, I am not a Starbucks PSL kind of person, let me be clear. The syrup is an alarming color and tastes like burning. The only pumpkin spice things I’ll allow in my house (besides actual pumpkin spice) are Trader Joe’s This Pumpkin Walks Into a Bar cereal bar, pumpkin spice frozen waffles, and Pumpkin O’s cereal. Beer is a whole other category and a post about that is coming soon. But something about a rainy cool morning in finally fall made me think a pumpkin spice latte was just what I needed.

That first sip took me someplace unexpected, back to the last place I can remember having a flavored latte, my very favorite place to get them and just about the only place on earth where I would: The Met in North Conway, NH. When my father first moved to North Conway, he told me about The Met. He’d found this wonderful coffeeshop, he said, which is nuts because my dad was not even a little bit a coffeeshop sort of guy. The coffee was local and wonderful, there was art on the walls, and the people were lovely, he told me. He’d moved from Wolfeboro, where he found that no matter how long he’d lived there he was always “from away”  and North Conway was a very welcome change. It’s moved now, but my dad’s other favorite hangout, Village Cigar Emporium, was just across the street. It was a relief to me when he found a community that welcomed him with open arms, and where he felt at home.

When I started traveling with frequency to North Conway, as my dad’s cancer advanced, then retreated, then came whipping back around with a vengeance, I would always stop at The Met. In the mornings while I was sleeping in my dad would run out and get coffee and muffins for us. When he was spending more nights at the hospital, I’d make the run. On days he couldn’t eat or drink I’d find myself at The Met, happy to linger over a coffee while I gathered the strength to return to another day of sitting by his side and waiting. The only time I ever left North Conway without stopping for a Lucy latte was the last time I was there, the evening before my father died, as it would turn out.

Something about that latte this morning brought me back to all of it – the gratitude of the people of North Conway who looked in on my dad and who took the time to help him, and went out of their way to tell me what a great guy he was; the conflict of needing to be at the hospital and not being sure I could take another hour let alone a whole day of just watching the cancer eat away at him; the sound of his voice on the phone telling me about this great new place he’d found to hang out and read a book; the ugly unfairness of being inside The Met when he couldn’t be, and wouldn’t be again.

This is how missing my father goes. Sometimes on his birthday (which is the same as my husband’s) and sometimes in January around the time he died and occasionally on my anniversary when I remember that he was literally grey from a recent round of chemo and was so so sick and exhausted, but he still made the trip to Maine to walk me down the aisle and even summoned the strength to jitterbug with me on the dance floor. But mostly the missing happens unexpectedly, suddenly. Stopping to smell a rose on a walk around the block and hearing his voice say, “You have to stop and smell the roses sometimes, Jen, before some bastard comes along and picks ’em all.” When my toddler out of nowhere begs to hear bagpipe music. When my husband quotes a line from Young Frankenstein. When I have a pumpkin spice latte.

I don’t really have a good way to end this post, nothing really poignant to bring it all home, so here’s the song that became his mantra. Enjoy.

By Jennifer Spencer

I'm a storyteller, food lover, book collector, and a Southerner at heart. I love connecting people.