Among other things, when my wife returned from Europe she brought along an ancient aluminum percolator, the kind you heat over a burner on the stove top. The unit makes one cup of coffee or, if you are having company over and prefer, two demitasses. Etched into the side of the urn is the word “Bialetti” — the name of the Italian maker — and the trademark, Dama.
Although coffee in our house is traditionally made in a 12-cup coffee maker by the first person up in the morning, since her return my wife has developed a preference for the small European unit. Even if there is hot coffee available when she descends the stairs to the kitchen, my wife will invariably make her own personal cup in the Bialetti Dama.
It’s not that my wife is particular about her coffee, or that she’s the type who needs to exert her individuality; but merely that the Bialetti urn was given to her by her mother, who is now 82 years old and aging rapidly like the rest of us. My mother-in-law had used the Dama most of her adult life to brew her coffee, and now my wife is following in her mother’s footsteps.
Although she hasn’t said so, I’m certain that when my wife pours her cup of morning coffee from the Bialetti urn, as she watches the dark caramel colored liquid swirl into the thin rimmed cup, she almost surely thinks of her mother as she had performed the same rite of passage every morning, day in day out, for decades.
In giving the urn as a gift, my mother-in-law offered her daughter a widow’s mite; for she has been a poor woman her entire life — poor, that is, in a material sense.
As I disassembled the Dama and washed the individual components at the sink this morning, I reflected that the Bialetti urn was in reality a sacrament of sorts — the outward and visible sign of my suegra‘s inward and spiritual grace.