Sunrise shining through the coffee shop window casting shadows of the signage: neon “Open” sign and “Stumptown coffee roasters”

The original Stumptown Coffee

Published 2023-02-16

Decades ago my future ex-wife and I used to live near to the original Stumptown coffee shop, at the time it was the only Stumptown coffee shop. In the morning we would walk the dog here and get coffee. Duane himself used to pull our shots.

In the afternoons we would take the dog to the nearby school playground to play fetch.

If my divorce were a person, that person could legally buy alcohol. This was that long ago.

My kids go to that school now. Sometimes in the morning when we are running early we stop by the original Stumptown for treats. The first time we did this was probably about 10 years ago, so there were about 10 years before that where I never visited the original Stumptown.

I have a somewhat animistic belief that places hold memories the way dirt roads hold ruts. As we move habitually through places they acquire a little emotional residue from our activities there. Anyone who has returned to their childhood home after many decades away can feel this: does the place “remember” me? If it has no resonance for you, then no, it doesn’t.

Conversely: if you return to a place and move through it in different ways, with different people and different emotions, it acquires a new emotional residue.

When I (re)visit the original Stumptown I have to make myself feel some of the emotion of the last year of my first marriage. It has lost that residue, I have to bring it back there myself. If I take another decade away from that location, when I revisit again in 2033 or whenever, if it holds any ghosts they will be the ghosts of my kids’ elementary school commutes. With great effort I may be able to will into being a fleeting ghost of my first marriage, and my first dog.

I cannot do this at all at the kids’ school — all the residue of my first marriage and my first dog have been overwritten by many more (and much more powerful) emotions. (Before I had kids, I never knew I could have emotions as powerful as the ones my kids produce in me.) If I return to that school after a decade’s absence there will certainly be ghosts, but all of them will be (already are) ghosts of my kids’ elementary school years.