As the eldest, I had responsibilities. I began my day early with an occasional cup of coffee. The earliest memory I have of drinking coffee must have been around the age of seven. Anyone raised in a Hispanic household savors coffee and understands the delight of un cafecito con pan dulce. A good cup of café con leche sets the tone for the day. The smell of roasted coffee beans is a charmful way to say, “This day is perfect and I love it!” “Mmmm.” “I love you, coffee.” I indulged in a tazita de café con leche y un pan dulce. Deliciosoooo. My dad bought pan dulce from La Colmena Bakery a few blocks away from the house on Saturday and Sunday mornings. It was the most anticipating aspect of the day. I loved to eat a conchita while sipping on my coffee during an episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Sipping coffee was a savory wake-up call, like starting the day with morning Yoga, but better. I felt like a grown-up. I liked grown-up stuff. I liked the idea. It made me feel like their equal. Oh, look we’re both drinking coffee, yea, that means we’re the same.
The feeling of adulthood was always momentary. My Saturday morning started with a blazing ray of sunshine hitting my bedroom window. Immediately after feeling the heat of the sun, opening my eyes and wiping away my eye boogers, my mom stormed in the room with, “Time to do your chores. Levantense.” “Levantate, Denisita.” And I’d say, “Ay, mom, I just want to watch cartoons.” “You never let me do anything!” Then she’d say, “The faster you clean, the faster you get to watch cartoons.” I used to say, “Ugh, quiero un cafecito y una conchita.” My mom typically responded, “Ok. Ya levantate.” She walked to the kitchen, put the milk to boil, poured some in a mug, spoonful of coffee, and spoonful of sugar. I grabbed a conchita and dipped pieces of it into my coffee while catching a glimpse of Alvin and the Chipmunks. I always did a morning squirmy dance in my chair and left borronas of pan dulce all over the table and carpet. Then it was time for work. I never bothered wiping away my sugary mustache.
My morning chore usually consisted of cleaning the coffee table and all of the collectible recuerdos. My mom had a lay out of recuerdos from every bautizo, primera communión, confirmaciòn, Quinceñera and bodas. The recuerdos served as art décor for the living room. I cleaned the TV first. I walked around spraying everything with Windex. I resented my mom for telling me to spray the cloth first and then wipe. I didn’t like her telling me to clean, much less telling me how to clean. Then I would clean the Quinceñera dolls. I always started by dusting La Veracruzana, then I worked my way around to the other dolls. Next, were the baby bottles and the chupones from all the baby showers. Then I cleaned the rosaries from Baptisms, hechos de migajon, the candles from First Communions, and flower arrangements from the centerpieces of Quinceñeras and weddings. The flower arrangements at parties are like gold. Every mom fights over the centerpiece. We had a few at our house. To me, it was just something else, I was going to have to clean.
Lastly, I cleaned the table where I left a morning mess on my Sesame Street place mat. I picked up my plate and my mug and took it to the kitchen sink where my sister made a mess of her own washing the dishes. My sister always washed dishes. Washing dishes was her chore. She wore a green apron that draped over her light-up L.A. gears and gloves that covered her entire arms. She stood on the step stool that read, “Stand up to be tall, sit down to be small.”