The Aluminum Coffee Pot

As a toddler, my divorced mother and I lived with my Grandmother "Mama" Ruby, Granddaddy George and my Uncle Bobby (my mother's only sibling) in downtown Savannah. Someone else in our household on a daily basis was our maid, Janie. I loved Janie to death, especially when she would dress me in pretty little pastel pinafores and we'd go walking, sometimes to the corner confectionary, sometimes to the park, sometimes to the drugstore, but always hand in hand. Janie had been with Mama Ruby for several years and they appeared to be friends as well as employer and empoyee. I remember seeing them sitting on the back porch during a break from cleaning or doing the laundry, sharing a cup of coffee and talking about their respective families while I nearby. Among my favorite possessions was an aluminum set that included a coffee pot, plates, saucers and cups along with knives, forks and spoons. I would place my dolls and teddy bears at a small table, set the table and we'd pretend for hours, using water in my little pot. When I played with it outdoors, I'd "set a table" on the stairs, and Mama Ruby and Janie would smile at me and always made smacking sounds when they drank the water from the small cups I handed to each of them. Janie would say: My, my child… that's some good coffee, because I always told them it was coffee I was serving. The coffee pot actually had a glass top and the insert for coffee grounds and looked so much like my Mama Ruby's coffee pot, I was convinced coffee could be made in it. This photo of a vintage set doesn't show the glass top or the insides, but otherwise, it's pretty darn close to the one I had. Being a presistant little toddler, one day I asked Mama Ruby to make me some coffee in my very own pot. She and Janie looked at each other, and without a word, they both shooed me out of the kitchen, telling me they'd call me when they were ready.
Now in those days, your maid didn't sit at the dining room table with the family, and our kitchen was very small with no seating, so I was in for a surprise when they called me to the kitchen. Since it was known that I clearly wanted all three of us to share coffee from my little cups, they had set quite a table for me to behold. The oven door was lowered all the way down, there was a clean white kitchen towel spread over it and on top was a place setting for three, each plate holding a cookie. Janie had made fresh coffee in Mama Ruby's pot and then poured some into my little aluminum pot, so you can imagine the look on my little face when she poured real coffee into our tiny cups. We sat there for quite a while, eating our cookie and drinking our coffee (mine diluted with lots of milk, of course) and talking about whatever came to mind like we were all grownups. When I asked Janie if they had made the coffee in my pot, she just smiled at me and said: Well child, I suppose you could say that's a real coffee pot you've got there. At the time, I didn't realize she had avoided answering the actual question, but I heard what I wanted to hear and I was beside myself with joy. Then Janie added discreetly: Now you know you can't be using your grandma's stove Jane, but once in a while, we'll make the coffee for you. Will that be okay? With my three year old eyes solemn, I agreed. After that special afternoon, Mama Ruby and Janie would set up the oven/table with my aluminum coffee pot set about once a week and we'd sit around eating a cookie, drinking coffee from my little cups, and talk and laugh with each other. It was heaven on earth for that three year old little southern girl. It also taught me how to be a good employer to hired help as Mama Ruby set quite an example of working side by side with Janie, treating her like she was a member of our family, laughing and talking about things women experienced, not matter the age or race. When I was in my teens and Janie was long passed from this earthly world, I asked Mama Ruby whose idea it was really and she told: Lord baby girl, Janie loved you like you were one of her own and it was all her idea. And that, too, was exactly what I wanted to hear.