Sunday, October 4, 2009

It's the End of an Era

There are many moments and milestones in our lives that forever serve as markers of "The Before Time" and "The After Time." This morning, as I made my single cup of coffee, I realized I'd just crossed over into The After Time.

I have a single cup (well, to be honest, it's a pretty BIG cup) of espresso-strength coffee every morning—typically in one of the Italian handmade cups my husband surprised me with years ago for an anniversary. Since we got the pooch, this morning ritual has included the feline furball. It's her "Alone Time" with me and she's insistent about it.

Here's how it works: I wake up, or the feline wakes me, and (we) head to the kitchen to fill the tea kettle with water. At this point, I'm supposed to pick her up and cradle her in one arm. This means I can never wear some luxurious, silky gown from which she could slide off. No, no, no. I must think of her safety. And her comfort. (Not to mention the claw factor that can devalue any lovely garment in seconds.) So I keep two dedicated robes for coffee-making, one for summer and one for winter.

She's to continue being cradled until the entire coffee production is completed. Sometimes I multitask and manage to get in a few leg exercises while we're waiting for the water to boil. She's not crazy about this aspect of the ritual, but she tolerates it.

When the kettle whistles, she vocalizes to make sure I know what to do next. She remains in my hold throughout the grinding and measuring of the beans, through the pouring and heating of the milk, through each careful pour of the tea kettle across the black powder mound in the filter.

When the warm milk is combined with the brew, it's her cue to part ways with me so I can drink.

This is how my days started until the furball succumbed to a cancer that swept her little life away in a matter of weeks. It caught us all by surprise—the pooch is still bewildered by it. The furball was a month shy of her 24th birthday; I'd had her for all but 4 months of her life.

I've continued the ritual sans feline: same mug, same sequence, more leg exercises. And she's always on my mind.

However, on Friday the equation shifted. My beloved tea kettle, another gift from my husband, showed signs of its inevitable demise.

The kettle is sleek in its design: all one material with a handle that rises from the side as if it's all one piece of shiny stainless steel shaped into a kettle form. And it very nearly is. The handle is merely spot-welded onto the vessel. And therein lies its design flaw. The spot welds had worn away and the handle was hanging precariously by a single weld, poised to drop the boiling water at any moment. It was time for a new kettle.

Fortunately, I didn't have to sift through tea kettle designs for a replacement. I already had a backup kettle given to me by my father. Its aesthetics don't compare, though. Constructed of two different materials, it doesn't have the same visual flow. However, it's 100 times lighter than my favorite kettle and more balanced when I lift it to pour. All in all, safer and less muscle strain for me. (And now that I'm AARP-aged, those are things I must consider.)

And so it goes. My morning ritual continues, but it's laced with sadness and a memory of the headstrong, brain-damaged, undersized feline who dominated and defined it for so many years.

Raise a mug with me, won't you? To my dearest furball and the end of an era.

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