Sweet Anna Belle

If I don’t get up now I never will.  My sleep cycle has just ended, and I gently slip the blankets off so as not to wake up Rachel, groping in the dark for my sweatshirt, pants and socks.  I open the bedroom door, a few steps toward the stairs, then I descend, trying with all my morning intellect to remember if it’s the third or fourth step that creaks the most.  *creak*  Yes, it was the fourth.  I descend quickly, remembering it is a lost cause trying to avoid them all.  *creak, creak, creak*

I have grand plans for writing this morning, and I begin thinking about which idea I will flesh out.  But first, the morning liturgy.  Fill up the kettle with water, place on stove, put kitchen scale on counter, measure out 22 grams of coffee beans, hand grind them.

I finish grinding, then open my Bible to the morning Psalm while the water finishes boiling.  This is what mornings are made of.  And I begin to read.  *creak, creak, creak*

“Mommy! Mommy!”  I look at the clock.  5:46 am.  “Mommy! Mommy!” I hear from the top of the stairs.  I race up, barely touching the stairs with my feet.

“Hey Annie!” I try to sound excited in a loud whisper.  “Mommy’s still sleeping.  Do you want to come downstairs?”

“Yeah!” she says, holding her baby and blanket.  She is wide awake and alert.  I carry her down into the kitchen, and pull a chair up to the counter for her to stand on.

The coffee grinder is sitting to her right.  A small, wooden box, with a drawer that pulls out from the bottom, containing the freshly ground beans.  “Take a drawer out?” she asks, her hand already on the knob, looking up at me with with questioning eyes.  I nod.

She gently pulls it out, while I place the paper sleeve into the ceramic cone over the pre-heated mason jar.  She holds the drawer precariously by the knob, and I nervously watch her place it over the cone, then tip.  Only a few grounds spill onto the counter, and she begins to sweep them into her hand, most of which fall to the floor.

The water finishes boiling, and I begin to pour.  46 grams.  We let the off-gases rise for a moment, letting the water soak in its fresh coffee bath, drawing out the floral notes of this medium-dark Ethiopian roast.  We savor the smell, then slowly pour more water onto the grinds.  The water slowly makes its way to the bottom, through the filter, then *drip, drip, drip*  Soon, a steady bleed into the mason jar.

Annie crouches low to watch.

Annie, crouching low, watching coffee bleed into jar
Annie, crouching low, watching coffee bleed into jar

“Do you want some milk?” I ask.

“Yeah!” she exclaims.  So I pour her a glass, then pour the rest of the water over the grinds.  She takes a few sips.

I pull the hand blender out of the drawer.  “B’end it?” she asks, wanting to know if she can do the honor of blending daddy’s makeshift latte.  I add a tablespoon (or two) of butter, then a splash of milk.   “This one?” she asks, pointing to the low speed button.  Before I finish saying yes, she pushes it in, and we blend away.

I pour the foamy brew into my mug, and we drink together in the quiet of the morning.  Annie turns towards me, wrapping her arms around my waste in an overflow of gratitude, burying her head deep into my belly.

Annie milk, daddy coffee

“Why did you get up so early this morning?” I ask her.

“Oh.”

“I guess God had other plans for my morning, huh?”

“Oh,” she says, reassuringly, then I ask her if she wants to read a book.  Which book?  The Snow book.  We head into the living room, grab Snow from the book nook, then pull a blanket up over us on the couch.  On the cover is a young girl, with her arms outstretched toward the falling snow, wearing a full-body snow suit.

Snow, by Cynthia Rylant
Snow, by Cynthia Rylant

“Daddy, wanna tell you some-ing.”

“What’s that?”

“That’s me,” she says, pointing to the little girl on the cover.

With each turn of the page, we repeat the same ritual.  Daddy, wanna tell you some-ing — What? — That’s me.  If there happens to be a boy or another girl in the picture, they become her brother and sisters.  The grandmother is, of course, grandma.

We finish reading.  She is yawning now, and my eyelids are heavy.  She slides down off my lap, and I look up at the wall clock, surprised to see it’s only 6:15.  The light from the streetlamp is shining into our window, and not a sound can be heard but our breathing, and the tick-tock of the clock.  She looks up at it with me, then I look at her.

She is still.  She is watching the passage of time, if it can be watched at all; unaware of its beating heart, its constant trickle, carrying us through.  She is present, only thinking of now.

This morning, sweet Anna Belle, you have taught me to rest.  But now, I re-enter khronos, feeling its tick-tock, as though it were tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me that there is breakfast to be made, dishes to wash, and work to be done.

“Do you want to lay on the couch for a little bit?” I ask.  She nods.  And she lays down to rest.

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