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Acerca de


“Steam from a blue-speckled coffee pot”

Notre Dame Magazine 

Winter 2009

        In the old social hall of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the women prepare the funeral lunch, a ritual as proscribed for them as the ceremonial meals of ancient cultures. I recall my mother, strands of damp hair slipping out from under her hair net, a flour sack apron covering her best dress, leaning over a counter as she peeled potatoes. She would pass the potatoes to a woman who would slice them and layer them in massive metal pans, while another woman added chunks of ham and slathered the layers with cream sauce. Across the room, women chopped cabbage and carrots for coleslaw, buttered the dinner rolls, and sliced angel food and spice cakes. They giggled and gossiped as they worked.

        And I remember a speckled blue coffee pot, and how my mother would haul it to the cistern out back, set it on a concrete slab beneath the spout, and pump the long wooden handle until water gurgled to the surface and poured into the pot. She would lug it back into the kitchen, hoist it up to the counter, measure coffee in a tin cup, stir the grounds into the pot, carry it to the stove, and set it over the blue flames. When the water came to a boil, she would drop an egg into the pot.  For me, a funeral ritual will always be the soft laughter of women, the taste of potatoes and ham, and the smell of coffee rising in steam from a blue speckled coffee pot.

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