In 8th grade, I got a phone call that would forever change my life. I found out my mom was in the hospital and unconscious. My dad rushed to the hospital and my aunt came to take care of my sister, 10 years old, and I, 12 years old.
But, that story is for another time. Eventually, my mom was told that her COPD and years of smoking had finally done its damage and that she would need a lung transplant, and until then she would have to use an oxygen tank 24/7.
We are very lucky to still have her around, eight years later, and she now shares her story to help others.
She has not yet gotten the transplant, but we continue to hope it will come someday. Anyway, as you can imagine, we went to the hospital a lot. She was not in the hospital for the entire year, but when I look back on it, those weeks and months sure felt like an eternity. Not only was it traumatizing, but also time-consuming. We were from a small town and the local hospital didn't quite have the care that she needed, so she often was transferred to a hospital in Toledo.
When our dad took us there, we tended to stop at a rest station on the turnpike, a toll road in Ohio. This was one of those big fancy rest stops that would have tons of restaurants to choose from, a gift shop, and more! As two pre-teens from a small village, we loved going there.
It gave us a sense of wonder, just for a moment.
It made us forget that we had school in the morning and then would have to do this all over the next day or the next week. As you can expect, our dad was also exhausted. He had to drive us back and forth often, take care of us, worry about the bills, go to work, all while wondering if his children would still have a mother in a year. Getting a cup of Starbucks coffee was the smallest thing he could do to fight exhaustion on those two-hour drives home.
It was here that my sister and I finally discovered Starbucks.
If I recall correctly, we knew Starbucks existed but had never bought it before. Our favorite at first was the double chocolate chip frappuccinos. We were very convinced at the beginning that these had caffeine and each time we got one we were wound up in the car for about 45 minutes until we would eventually crash. Spoiler: there is no caffeine in that specific frappuccino. Maybe it was a placebo, maybe it was all the sugar.
Over time, that stop became a staple of our trip and was sometimes one of the best ways to cheer us up after having to leave our mom time and time again.
Throughout the next year or two, she was in and out of the hospital and started to spend more time at Cleveland Clinic than at Toledo. We really learned our way around some of those massive buildings at Cleveland Clinic and always knew how to find our way to their on-site Starbucks kiosk. Same frappuccinos, but a different location. Even today, I could get myself to that kiosk in 2 minutes flat.
I've never realized it until now, but Starbucks was truly always there for us.
They weren't actively helping us, but sometimes just having it there and always ready was an amazing way to cheer us up. It also got us out of the room so my parents could have grown-up conversations that we wanted so desperately to be included in, but I think we can forgive them for that. At least we got frappuccinos!
Maybe on accident, maybe on purpose, and maybe just by fate, at age 17, I started working my first job as a barista on campus. This was a "we proudly serve" Starbucks rather than licensed or corporate, but it was a wonderful home for the two years I worked there. I made so many friends and met my roommates there.
After moving off campus, I now belong to a "Krobucks" otherwise known as a Starbucks inside Kroger. Unsurprisingly, my sister also now works at the same "we proudly serve" location I began when I was 17. I have always felt comfort in Starbucks cafes that I never quite understood until now.
Starbucks was there for me when I felt most alone.
That was only possible due to capitalism and the copious amounts of Starbucks locations all over the world, but no matter how it happened, I'm just thankful it did. Because at Starbucks, I have found comfort.
Maybe I'm a little too obsessed, but hey, Starbucks is my happy place.