Personal Musings

My Hidden Talent Is Spilling Coffee and Tea. What’s Yours?

We all have hidden talents. One of mine is spilling a mug of hot tea or coffee. It doesn’t matter if the cup is full to the brim, half full, or 3/4 full, I will find a way to spill at least 1/10 of the liquid contained within the vessel. Whether I’m moving the mug three inches closer to me on my desk or walking with it into another room matters little. I will spill it.

My wife can confirm as much.

I inherited this gene from my mom who, upon leaving on her last visit, informed my wife and me she had knocked over her 24 oz. Yeti Rambler full of coffee onto our white rug in the living room. Why we have a white rug when we have two kids and a dog is a topic for another discussion. I blame the IKEA sale taking place at the time.

My wife: I don’t know if a white rug is a good idea for our living room with two kids and a dog.

Me: We can keep it clean. It’s 60% off.

My wife: It’s 60% off because it’s a white rug.

One week later

Me: I need to buy spot cleaning spray with hydrogen peroxide.

One month later

Me: Can you add Resolve with hydrogen peroxide to the shopping list? We’re all out.

Our daughter, it appears, has carried on our spillage lineage by inheriting this trait from me — except, instead of tea or coffee, she spills an overly full bowl of cereal and milk. It appears she sets a daily goal of once a day with a minimum threshold of five days a week.

I rightfully feel like a hypocrite when I get after my daughter for filling the cereal bowl as high as she does. This is even before she adds milk — and I know good and well she is going to add milk as the next step.

You can see the cereal teetering above the top line of the bowl as she walks from one room into the next. It’s only a matter of time before the cereal and milk spill over into the floor.

I know what you may be thinking — this, in and of itself, is not a talent, hidden or invisible — but I assure you: you couldn’t train another human being to be this skilled at spilling liquid from a cup, or in the case of my daughter: milk from a bowl. There is talent involved.

Talent is defined as “a natural aptitude or skill.” Aptitude is defined as “a natural ability to do something,” meaning: you have a knack for it. Skill is defined as “an ability to do something well.”

Check, check, and check.

“Don’t fill it to the top,” I tell her as more cereal cascades down into the bowl. It’s like I’m coaching up myself from the sidelines.

“You’re going to spill it,” I follow-up as the pillowy cushions that are Chex float to the top as the milk pours down. It’s like the Chex is a life raft sailing the high seas.

In the Brothers Grimm fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel,” Hansel drops breadcrumbs along the trail to assist him and his sister in finding their way back home. As you will recall, the birds eat the breadcrumbs and Hansel and Gretel end up lost and venture deeper into the forest where a cannibalistic old woman lives.

Talk about a bad neighborhood growing up. Sheesh!

It’s a pretty grim tale, which begs the question: was the word “grim” inherited from the Brothers Grimm over time or is it pure coincidence? According to Quora, Grimm is the brothers’ actual surname, Jacob and Wilhelm, but the word itself had been in existence for a few centuries. In other words: coincidence. Or was it fate?

Had I been cast out into the woods by a wicked stepmother and a father who was too weak-willed to stand up for his children against an abusive spouse, I wouldn’t have left breadcrumbs in my wake for birds to pluck up and eat.

I would have spilled tea or coffee. And you will know me by the trail of spilled tea and milk. Sorry. Band reference for those that caught it.

That’s how I would have found my way back home. There would have been a creamy brown line of hot tea or coffee and half and half carved into the forest floor two miles long. Not a leaf or acorn would’ve been spared.

Would a deer have lapped it up behind me? It’s possible. According to the cashier at my local grocery store, cats drink coffee. Why not deer? My destiny, much like Hansel and Gretel’s, may not have been terribly different, after all.

There’s a scene in the 1992 film A League of Their Own where the female ballplayers are shown attending a beauty and charm lesson taught by a woman you may think of as uppity. One such activity is learning how to drink a cup of tea or coffee without slurping or sipping. It’s followed by a scene where the women then balance a book on their heads as they walk.

I asked my wife Allison if she ever attended cotillion growing up. I was never invited. Imagine that. But my sister was. I remember going to pick her up in Farmville and she had to wear a dress and learn how to dance and have good manners.

As I was watching A League of their Own earlier this week, I thought of cotillion and then to myself: but what if — what if — you combined these two activities together? What if instead of learning how to properly drink tea or coffee and walk with a book on your head, you learned how to walk while carrying a cup of tea or coffee and not spill it?

And then I saw it: a vision. A vision of my white IKEA rug in the living room living a long, clean life. Nothing spilled on it. No stains. No smell of Resolve with hydrogen peroxide permeating from its polyester fibers.

But this vision is not a life I live. It is not a life I will ever live. It can’t be because of my hidden talent. A hidden talent inherited from my mom. A hidden talent my daughter Annabelle has inherited from me.

I spill coffee and tea because I’m a grown up. My daughter spills milk and cereal because she is still but a child. But one day, she, too, will spill coffee or tea. It’s in her cards. It was the hand she was dealt. That I was dealt. That my mother was dealt.

And now that I think about it, that her mother, Juanita — my grandmother — was dealt. I just had a flashback to the Charlotte Gazette, circa 1988, and there my grandmother is backhanding a full cup of hot coffee onto her giant desk calendar, then saying, “Damn it! Can you grab some paper towels from Suzanne. You know what? Hand me yesterday’s paper. That’ll do it. Ahhh!”