Through the years, she has slowly begun each morning with a cup of coffee to start her day. She holds the warm cup with both hands for some time, never rushing the first sip…the sip that promises a stream of memories only the actual scent in the air can rival. She closes her eyes, the cup warming her hands, and lets the memories warm her heart. Back in her childhood home, standing in the doorway of her galley kitchen, she sees her mom before the stove waiting on the familiar appliance that is iconic of a Cuban kitchen. It is the cafetera, and it does so much more than make coffee. She recalls many days when not long after the coffee started to brew, the sound of the doorbell would announce a family member or neighbor drawn by the familiar aroma. As always, they were welcomed into the kitchen for a dainty vessel of strong, black, liquid that never lasted as long as the laughs and conversation around the kitchen table. They always came. They always gathered in the kitchen. They told stories of the tiny island that seemed an insurmountable distance from them, of local parks where men played dominoes while smoking cigars, their cup of Cuban coffee never far from reach. And, they always covered a range of topics from parenting, to current events, to politics both American and Cuban of course. Some stopped in on their way to work, while others arrived after a long day. No matter when they came, no matter what troubled them, nothing seemed out of reach when discussed over some Cuban coffee.
She was just a child, usually observing from a distance, nose in a book, only taking in the newest arrival with a quick upward glance between pages. She could brew a pot at the age of eight before she was even old enough to drink the stuff. Her parents sometimes allowed a tiny bit at the bottom of a tall mug of milk. It was those times when she felt grown up and worldly, like the very sipping of the coffee would give her the wisdom the grownups possessed. This wisdom they shared as they counseled each other through job changes, financial crises, and even marital troubles. Tiny cups atop matching saucers were witness to their hopes and their dreams, as they stirred in sugar with tiny spoons that would later come to rest just so on the edge of the saucer. She was raised to welcome a guest in their home with joy, and to offer coffee even before offering a comfy seat. A smile would play at the corner of her mouth as they entered the kitchen. They may have come for the coffee but they would leave with a sense of purpose and a warm heart.
Back in her grown up kitchen as she faces her day each morning, cup of Cuban coffee in hand, she inhales the sweet aroma and reflects on the many generations of family that through the years have started their day in similar fashion. She takes her first sip, and as the warm liquid slides down her throat she knows nothing is out of her reach.
Do you have a family tradition that immediately takes you back to another place and time?