The tiny crossroads hamlet in which we live boasts two retail outlets – the feed store, where we buy birdseed in the winter, and a bakery. More than a bakery, the shop – I’ll call it Rose’s – supplies not just bread, pies, tarts and the best cider donuts for miles, but pickles, salsa and jams. And coffee. Rose works harder than anyone I know – the bakery opens at 6 a.m. to provide coffee and breakfast fare and closes at 6 p.m., and it’s Rose who is baking, pickling, and providing counter service for all those hours, six days a week.
I used to stop every morning for coffee before I drove to work, and Rose’s donuts and butter tarts were the highlight of many a department meeting. Over the years, Rose and I became friends, although she has a reputation for being irascible. She’s also the hub for village news – when BD found a grey-and-white kitten in our garage early one summer’s morning five years ago, it was to Rose’s we went to see if anyone had reported her lost. (They hadn’t, and Pye, all grown up now, is currently sitting on my desk watching me type.) We tell her when we’re going away, so she’ll keep an eye on the house. When I was buying coffee at seven a.m. weekday mornings, we’d talk about the fox cubs being reared in the old graveyard; the coyote family Rose saw every morning at five a.m. when she walked her dogs; the sandhill cranes which have returned to the area. She’s told me who to hire to plough the snow, fix our furnace, pump the septic tank.
But in retirement, I have the leisure to make my own coffee in the morning, and I also needed to consider the money I spent – the coffee was all too frequently combined with a muffin, or a breakfast sandwich – depleting my purse and expanding my waistline. But I miss going. I miss our chats, I miss being greeted by her two Labradors, and her coffee is better than mine. Frankly, I miss seeing my friend, and finding out what’s happening in the village. Dropping in every couple of weeks when we’ve run out of salsa or pickles or cranberry chutney isn’t enough.
So I will return to buying a morning coffee two or three times a week, but now I’ll walk or bike down, or stop in on my way to town for groceries. It will cost me a few dollars, but can you put a price on community?