The Broome Street coffee shop across from my son Theo’s school has been the setting for a big part of my social life for the last few years and will be for one more year until Theo heads off to middle school. A small place with outdoor seating, the café is primarily a store that sells lovely but pricey goods for the home and body, but it also serves a very smooth cup of coffee, beautifully decorated lattes and an assortment of fragrant teas, which is what my fellow parents and I partake of almost every weekday morning after school drop-off. Getting Theo to school in the morning is often a stressful ordeal. He’s not a big fan of school to start with, and even though he knows the routine, he often acts surprised that we’re expecting him to put his clothes on, eat his breakfast and brush his teeth – what, now?! Theo and I typically land in the schoolyard a couple of minutes after the bell rings, and after I make sure he’s in the correct line with his class, I say my goodbyes and make my way towards the gate, casting my eyes around for a fellow coffee shop goer.
It’s usually pretty crowded in the coffee shop, full of parents craving caffeine or company or both. I’m in the last category, as I work from home so spend much of my day alone in my head. I’m often still frazzled when I approach the counter to order, so it soothes by nerves when the lovely Rachael greets me with a warm smile and the words, “The usual?” Rachael has been working at the café for a couple of years now and always seems to be in good spirits, a condition that is thankfully contagious. Today, as I left the house, I decided I wanted to bring a little something for her, as a sort of tip for her morning friendliness. I took out a dollar bill origami ring that I had folded a while back and popped it on my finger. When I got to the counter this morning, I handed her the ring and she looked amused and pleased and put in on her pinkie finger. As I was explaining how I’d made it, I suddenly realized that although I’d remember the gift, I’d forgotten my credit card and had no cash. I apologized for this embarrassing mistake, but she just shrugged, said, “That’s ok. We know you. Just pay next time.” Which is exactly what makes getting a coffee here so therapeutic after an hour or so of less-than-satisfactory parenting. I asked Rachael if she’s by any chance a mom too. She patted her belly gently and said, “Due in December.” With her warm smile and upbeat attitude, she will surely make a lovely mother. However, on those mornings when she’s feeling below par, I hope she too finds a coffee shop like this where she can decompress and bond with other parents and be served coffee with a smile by someone just like herself.