My mom used to brew coffee and tea for all of us every morning. The first batch of coffee, for the adults was strong. The second batch, made from the same grounds, but lighter, and without much caffeine, was for us kids.
I woke to that aroma every morning, the scent finding its way to our bedroom- freshly roasted coffee. My mother would roast the beans the evening before, and my father would use a Pilon (a wooden hand grinder) to grind them, and then a Colador (a pour-over sack) to brew the coffee.
My parents were up early, by 5 am every morning, to brew coffee and tea, to make breakfast for all of us kids, and for those that would work with the family on the farm. My oldest siblings would be up early- they traveled up the mountain to milk the cows and goats and bring the milk back down the mountain before heading off for school before 8 am.
The milk my siblings brought down the hill supplied not just our family, but our neighbors and community as well- the house became a sort of store- all day long, people would stop by for milk. At the end of the day, whatever was left over was made into fresh cheese for that night’s dinner, or the next morning’s breakfast.
By 10 am, the red or black beans, set to soak early, would be soft and it was time to start preparing lunch. There were a lot of people to feed- my older siblings would return from school by about 12:15, and rush to prepare the horse to take lunch up the mountain to my father and the workers.
Concerned about indigestion, my mother would never let us eat before the journey up the mountain and would pack a lunch for those riding up too. On occasion, my mother would take lunch up the mountain herself, after preparing it. My mother had her own horse- the mother of the of the other horses- named Beast, for her fuzzy coat and hard character.
My memories from that time also feature a lot of fruit. We picked mangos directly from the tree and ate them. They were so wonderful, that I can’t eat them here in the states now. It’s not the same- they just aren’t as good. And it’s worth the wait, even if it’s a year or two between trips, to eat perfect, organic, mangoes picked from the tree at home.
I also remember being very small, and helping pick coffee beans. I remember telling my father “But I’m so little- I can’t reach.” And him saying that it was ok, because I could reach the lower branches, and they could reach the higher branches. Now I can reach the taller branches, and I know that what you can’t do doesn’t matter so much as finding the work you can do, and doing it.
By 5pm, the day was done at the farm, but there was still work to do. The horse and the donkey needed to be prepared and loaded with that day’s coffee harvest. Wood needed to be chopped to be sold and used at home. A sack of mangos collected to eat, and give away, and sell.
It was a long walk home down the hill- the halfway point was my Aunt Rosita’s house, where we would stop for a cup of cold water from the large, pottery cooling jar called a tinaja.
By the time we arrived home, and helped unpack, as my father lay the coffee out to dry for a few days, it would be past 6pm.
My mother or my grandmother would make dinner. As my mother was the only one of five kids that had stayed in the area (the rest of my mother’s siblings had by then relocated to Santo Domingo) and the one that had the most children, and a working farm, herself, we were lucky to have our grandmother’s help. We had her with us until 2012, when she passed at 96.
At the end of a long day, we would do the Rosary as a family, and by 8pm, the Garcia Baret family were in bed until the next day when, we would, by the Grace of God, do it all again.
This project has brought back all of those memories for me. Life is exhausting, and it’s so easy to forget these precious moments. But they keep coming back to me- even from when I was very young- and it still feels almost like it was just a few years ago.
P.S The picture is my of Father, Mother, and Brother grinding coffee in the traditional Pilon method.