By Samantha McCalip
One of the things that I remember really vividly from when I was little was finding a mug of cold coffee in the microwave. I would wake up as early as possible, trying to beat my parents downstairs to the TV. I would always think I had won when I got down to the living room and it was empty and quiet. I’d turn on the Care Bears and jazzercise with them because it was the 90’s and that’s how it’s done. But then I would go into the kitchen to make oatmeal and find this mug of cold coffee in the microwave. Weird, right?
As I got older and cared less about getting up early, I still thought the coffee in the microwave was weird. It kept happening, to the point where it was a running joke in my family. It wasn’t even just coffee being reheated from the night before; someone had doctored it with milk and sugar and obviously meant for it to be enjoyed. It became routine. Open the microwave, see the forgotten drink, close the microwave, hope Mom remembers it. Weird tradition, but tradition nonetheless.
Coming to Japan, I found that these little weird customs are what I missed about home. I thought a lot about the things my family did that made them special. I can visualize my home perfectly. My brother’s music would reach me as soon as I walk in the door. I could turn right and smell the incense smoke that clings to my sister like perfume. I could move to the left into the living room where my mom does puzzles on her laptop. I know I’d find agave instead of sugar in the pantry and lemon-ice instead of ice cream in the freezer. These are facts. These things make my family mine.
I wasn’t thinking about that when I decided to wake up early a couple weeks ago. I mean ungodly early, like before the sunrise Care-Bears-style early. I went about my routine slowly, feeling good, and decided to go out on my porch for a second. I could see Mutsu Bay, clear across the shifting light of the city I was starting to call home. Streetlights glowed, a gentle breeze carried morning air my way, and I sighed happily. This was a moment of belonging. The only thing that could make it more perfect would be my coffee.
I turned back to the kitchen to grab it, but my mug wasn’t there. It wasn’t on the counter, or in the living room. I even re-checked the balcony. Nothing! Confused, I poured myself another mug of yesterday’s brew and opened the microwave to find a reminder of my other home. Sitting there was a huge mug of doctored-up cold coffee, just waiting for someone to remember it. In the end, the coffee wasn’t what made the moment perfect. It was my family’s weird tradition, now mine, that did.
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