Autumn Harvest: Reaping the rewards of love

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The scents of ground nutmeg and grated orange peels mingle as I cradle my coffee cup at my chin. White chocolate and cream, cinnamon and every scent of fall floods my senses. The current special at Benetti’s Coffee Experience in Raytown, the Autumn Harvest latte, overwhelms me with more than flavor and smell. It hurtles me back a year, memories overcoming me in a wash of joy. Proust’s madeleine cake could not have had a stronger evocation.
 
This time last year I was engaged to my soulmate after years of waiting. I was eagerly losing weight to fit into my mother’s wedding gown, but the Autumn Harvest drink called to me with irresistible force, and I would savor it as the sole indulgence of my otherwise tuna, egg and carrot-filled week.
 
My then-fiancé worked at the coffee shop and was one of the baristas who invented this drink. I lived an hour and a half away in the deep Missouri country and spent my weeks in college classes anticipating the weekends, which would be filled with coffee, friends, music and precious interaction with my dear one. The drive up would be to the sounds of Morrissey, the Smiths or Tori Amos, my heart singing in anticipation of the sight of his face.
 
It was not love at first sight between us. As a newbie barista intimidated by his “super barista” status, I made an utter fool of myself at our first meeting, prompting him to turn to a co-worker and blurt, “What the hell was that?” It was months before we had a decent conversation, but once we did, our lives were over. We were reborn.
 
However, between a vision and its reality there is often a deep divide. We did not find it easy to communicate. Both of us terrified of conflict, we had wildly different views on many aspects of life. There were phone calls that left night and touched morning as we tried desperately to show honesty and courtesy to each other, conflicts that had us both fuming, and, best of all, sweet restoration of communion and increased ability to communicate.
 
Time passed. Each day was a gift — we lived with great intensity. Finally there was someone to share in the agonizing force of life, and we shared in texts, emails, phone calls, face to face, through our friends, and through song, prose and poetry. We loved and we learned how to love.
 
A year ago, my fiancé put in a 24-hour workday to prepare for our honeymoon. A year ago, I lost not only my vehicle but also my parking ticket in a huge airport garage, struck by pre-wedding jitters. A year ago, dear family and friends gathered to share in the holy commitment we made before God and man in the intimate chambers of the heart.
 
Now, in a marriage that offers increasing delight every day, my belly swells with our unborn child. Terrified of the unknown, exhilarated by the journey, we are preparing for a move and a career change. The artistry of life is expressed in huge colorful strokes — the foggy teal of our new bedroom, the red of blood and new life, the rich brown of espresso prepared in our kitchen — and in minute details that remain scored in my memory: scrambled eggs and coffee on the porch, late-night terror over a beloved dog with epilepsy, a game in which my husband laughed so hard his childhood asthma awoke.
 
Now, I take the last sip of my drink and glance over my cup rim to catch my beloved’s eyes across the counter. He smiles and his mustache lifts under the crinkling of his eyes on half-moon cheeks. This joy was a long time coming and hard-won, but is substantial beyond possible imagining. The sowing of seed was difficult, but the harvest is bountiful. I have nothing but appreciation for the excruciating miracle of love. 
 

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