I really love coffee. It makes me a better mother, a better employee, a better wife, a better friend - really, just a better human being. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars at Starbucks and hours upon hours of my time at Starbucks. Some days, I am working furiously on my laptop, racing the clock to 4:30 PM and school pick up for my children. Some days, I'm chatting leisurely with a friend who I haven't seen in awhile and we're catching up over cappuccinos. Other days, I'm in a different city and my routine has been thrown for a loop save my daily Starbucks -- whether in Seattle, San Francisco, New York City or Chicago. Starbucks has been a constant in my life for the past ten years, and I'll always be grateful to my baristas for getting me through many late night grant deadlines, red eye flights, board meetings and giving me a place to gather with friends, recover from break ups with boyfriends, bond with my ailing mother and count on a smile and pleasant conversation each morning.
These past three years, Starbucks has continued to mean all of those things to me and also grown into so much more. Three weeks after my son was born, I mustered up the nerve to put on non-pajamas (though, closely related) and take him out in public for the first time. It was my 29th birthday and we went to Starbucks. I remember the feeling of standing at the counter, holding his bucket seat and ordering the same drink that I had ordered thousands of times before over the past several years, a grande cappuccino with one pump raspberry. This time the order and experience felt so, so different. I was standing in front of Rachel and Kelly (obviously, I know my baristas and we're Facebook friends, Rachel is now my daughter's nanny -- I'm serious about my Starbucks), holding my son, ordering my coffee. Starbucks became a refuge for me, I sat and read magazines while Hunter slept peacefully, or did work while the sounds of the coffee grinder kept him amused for what seemed like hours. On the mornings that my husband would take the baby, I'd bound out of the house to go to Starbucks as though he had just booked me on a one way flight to Bora Bora. I sat in an oversized chair, watching people walk in and out and most often thinking that that person doesn't know I have a baby. It was those mornings that taught me that while I had become a mom, I didn't have MOM tattooed on my forehead and that I'd leave the house again, take a meeting again, walk into a Starbucks and hear the click of my high heels on the brown, square tile floor again, on my way to a meeting.
As my life came into focus again, my relationship to Starbucks changed once again. My son turns three in September and since that day in October of 2012, he's probably been to Starbucks all but a couple dozen days in his life. Now, at almost three years old, he wakes up each morning and asks if we're going on our Starbucks date. When he was crawling, he'd pull himself up by the display case and touch every pressed juice he could reach, enamored with the colors. To take cute Facebook pictures, I'd prop him up in their armchairs, with a mini Starbucks cup in his hand. He first drank water, graduated to cold milk boxes and now, orders himself vanilla steamers, no whip. On Fridays, he knows we have kids hot chocolates, WITH whip. For the past three months, I've been desperate to keep my daily ritual with him but now we have an addition, a little sister for him. He's welcomed her with open arms and each morning asks if today is the day that Logan can eat a petite vanilla scone or share the peanut butter out of the protein box with him. He's adjusted to this change beautifully, holding doors open and informing all of the other patrons that the (hopefully) sleeping baby in the car seat is his baby.
Me, on the other hand, I'm not handling it all as well. I say no constantly, begging Hunter not to drink his steamer too close to Logan's seat, asking him to sit still and not jump in his seat. I forget to point out when the fire truck leaves the fire house across the street because I'm too busy bouncing Logan on my knee, hoping that her whimpering doesn't upset anyone. I forget to get Hunter the brown thing (sleeve) and green thing (mixie, is the best word I've come up with for it -- what is that thing called?!) and instead ask him to go grab them himself, watching him stand on his toes to reach and then watching a kind stranger do what I had done for so many years, grab the green and brown things. When he spills his coffee, or whines, as three years old do, I don't have the patience or physical space to kneel down to his level and help him clean it up or assure him that it's not a big deal, everyone spills.
Each morning, we make the trek anyway and it's my way of telling Hunter (even though he doesn't seem worried) that our life will find balance again, that I'll learn how to be all things to two people and we'll continue making our memories, at Starbucks across the world. This morning, as I repeatedly apologized to the man next to our table for the overeager three year old balancing his cars on the strings for the black window blinds, a woman came up to our table and tapped me on the shoulder. I've seen her most mornings for the past three years, she brings her own cup and sits outside and reads or journals and we've smiled at one another but unlike most of the patrons of the 8 AM Mt. Diablo Starbucks run, I didn't know her life story and other than hearing baristas shout each others names, we hadn't met.
"I just wanted to tell you that I've been watching you, and you're doing a great job. You're a great mom."
I cannot tell how much I needed those words and I won't -- for many decades -- be able to return the unbelievable gift that she gave me this morning. A vote of confidence from a stranger when you're life feels chaotic, messy and hard. A perspective other than my own that Hunter doesn't notice the fire trucks anymore, he's too in love with his sister and that no one thinks Logan is crying, she's really just squeaking in an adorable way at this age and that just getting up, getting out and getting on with each day is a win. I cannot wait to tell tired, hard working women and men that they're doing a great job. I need a little more years of wisdom and to survive my own life for a bit longer, but I promise I'll do it and I hope you will too.