I started drinking coffee when I was 14, and I remember the first cup of coffee I ever had with surprising clarity, especially considering that it was at about 4:30am on a Saturday.

Like a lot things in my life, it was my father who introduced me to coffee. Incidentally, it was also his influence that created the circumstances in which I needed the coffee in the first place.

It all goes back to freshman year in high school, at my small and poor Catholic high school in rural Pennsylvania. It was the sort of school where half the teachers didn’t have proper certification, there were only 4 girls’ sports the entire year but football reigned supreme, and sadly the one black kid who started freshman year with us left mid-year because the environment wasn’t exactly welcoming. (Sounds awesome, yes? It was an hour away, and it was still a better alternative than the heroin riddled public high school where I lived in Maryland.)

But, there were a few great teachers and one who stood out from all the rest. She ran an outstanding and challenging Social Studies program, including International Relations and Contemporary History honors classes for upperclassmen. She taught 1 of the 4 AP classes offered by the school. She ran a state- and national-championship winning forensics program. (That’s debate and speech, not crime scene stuff, for those of you scratching your heads right now.) She was also a single woman who adopted 2 black children from St. Lucia in the 70s, in rural PA. The woman has conviction AND guts. For the past 7 years, in her retirement, she’s been doing AIDS education in Zimbabwe. For reals. She still sends her former students clippings of news articles she thinks we should be aware of.

And I had her for freshman year Western Civilization. Evidently, a week into classes, she called my father and told him she wanted me on the debate team. He broached the subject to me and I said no way in hell, characteristic of any 14-year-old girl conscious of her burgeoning social life at a new school.

He said, oh really? You can’t play field hockey if you don’t at least try debate. (Your move Mr. Bond.)

I was indignant, but I considered his terms. It was a threat, but a fairly reasonable one. At the thought of losing my one social outlet (see above: lived super far away from classmates) I quickly caved.

And that’s how I found myself leaving the house at 4:30 on one dark Saturday in November when I was 14, heading for a weekend long competition at UPenn. My father handed me the steaming cup of coffee in a regular old mug, told me I was going to need it, and then taught me how to hold it in the car so it didn’t spill.

Almost every time I brew coffee at home, I think of it. The dim light in the kitchen, and the steam rising from the mug. Of all the times I’ve balanced coffee in the car with one hand, steering the car and shifting gears with the other. Of the ways that being on the debate team shaped my life. On how my father is almost always right. (Yup, that’s an ‘almost’ Dad.)

These days, I brew a LOT of coffee. Check out my new cozy (Raveled here), so that when baby wrangling gets in the way of drinking it fresh, I don’t necessarily have to nuke it. It adds a nice touch to my so-hard-to-get-up mornings.

And one of the reason my mornings are so-hard-to-get-up, for my father: