A few weeks ago, my trusty cappuccino machine finally bit the dust. I got the machine ten years ago, back when I was working as a barista at a local coffeehouse – my first job, and still one of my favorites – and became so addicted to espresso drinks that I needed a fix at home on my days off. It spent some time in the attic between pregnancies and moves; but a few months ago when Aaron pointed out that I was spending not only our children’s college funds but also our entire grocery budget at Starbucks, we dug it out, dusted it off, stuffed it full of caffeine, and frothed away.

So it wasn’t a huge surprise when the heating element zapped itself off to the big grinder in the sky – the cappuccino machine had lived a long and active life, after all. And call us callous, but we moved onto a bigger, better model – a regift from my sister-in-law – before the first machine’s body was even cold.

But we weren’t so cavalier when, four short, caffeinated days after we got the new unit, the handle snapped, rendering the machine inoperable. Sure, we could still steam milk with it, but all the froth in the world didn’t matter if there was no espresso to dump in it. What would we do? We had sworn off Starbucks! How would we function?? We considered cocaine, but I’m still breastfeeding Peter, so that was out. In a headachy stupor we wondered if this was the work of some sinister Starbucks cabal, breaking our metaphorical beverage kneecaps to punish us for our disloyalty. We called the manufacturer only to be told that they couldn’t send us a replacement handle (Couldn’t, or wouldn’t? Were they in on it? Was everyone?? When I searched the bottom of the machine for a model number I half expected to find a muted post horn instead), although we were welcome to drive four hours to the nearest repair center.

We were determined to be strong, to subsist on Diet Coke and plain old coffee until we could shell out for a new cappuccino machine – next payday, we hoped. But like the evil eye of Mordor, the malevolent forces were watching us, pushing harder and harder to find a weakness. Two nights later, we were awakened at 2 a.m. by the unmistakable sound of horking, and we spent the next three hours comforting Noah as he barfed. (Mothers, I’ve discovered, don’t set out to become martyrs; it’s just that at 3 in the morning, letting your child vomit into your cupped hands seems preferable to having to wash the duvet.) The next day was a blur of washing bedding, changing alarming diapers, and scraping regurgitated graham crackers out of the carpet – all on three hours of sleep and without the aid of legal stimulants; I scratched another tick mark into the wall, my third day in noncaffeinated captivity, and daydreamed of macchiatos.

Yesterday Noah had finally stopped emitting, and I was a barely ambulatory zombie. I couldn’t resist any longer – I succumbed; I took him to Target with me (we were out of diapers and Purell) and went to the in-store Starbucks, where I got myself the ventiest, espressoiest latte $4 could buy. As a peace offering to the Starbucks gods, who I suspected were watching me on the closed-circuit monitors, I slipped two dollars into the tip jar.

I sipped my drink reverently while Noah and I examined the shiny new cappuccino machines. After a while, Noah – still tired from his illness and not yet back to normal – lay down on the floor of the toothpaste aisle. “I need to take a rest,” he said. “Let’s just sit for a while.”

“Okay,” I said, and sat next to him with my latte. I was tempted to give him a sip. Power was coursing through my veins with every mouthful; I felt energetic, alive, but he looked like he’d been cuddling kryptonite.

We said goodbye to the cappuccino machines – I’ll see you on payday, I whispered as we left – and headed home to find that our luck had changed: Aaron had managed to resurrect our machine, using only his wits and a 99-cent washer from the hardware store.

Or at least that’s how he tells it; but I know that today Noah’s intestinal tract is back to normal and I had a homemade latte for breakfast all because I went to Target and paid my dues to Starbucks. From now on, I may make most of my coffee drinks at home, but because I know what’s good for me, I will make regular pilgrimages to genuflect at the altar of expensive coffee. It’s a sacrifice I’ll just have to make for my family.


2 Responses to “Half-Caf”

  1. 1 Stephanie April 3, 2009 at 3:28 am

    I love it! Tomorrow I will go to the Starbucks god to make an offering of my own. I’ll tell ya, at 3 am that’s exactly what I want to be reading! 🙂 Great post friend.

  2. 2 Rachel April 20, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    NEVER anger the starbucks gods. You know they are bound to be pissed enough right now, with Mcdonald’s and their new “McCafe.” Miss ya 🙂

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