My Father recently shared some stories of his childhood days on my grandma’s farm. I realized it had been a long while since I had sat listening to his stories. I saw his mind drift back to the high mountains of Yemen, recalling how much they used to love playing with his cousins around the farm while their fathers and mothers worked hard above the clouds, choosing the ripest red cherries ready for drying.
One Uncle’s dusty hands pick another deep red coffee cherry, and he drops it into his straw basket. He spots the young boys playing and calls them to come close to him. He bends down slowly and whispers to them, “the one that has the most at the end of the game wins! – Grab the fallen bean!”
The children shriek with excitement, all of them flee quickly into opposite directions. “Arkud! Bisurea! (Run quickly in Arabic) As soon as they see red coffee cherries on the floor, they pick up the bottom corners of their t-shirts and turn them inside out, making a provisional shirt basket attached to their small bodies. Each of them crawls under the coffee trees, picking up all the fallen beans that have been dropped or descended during the picking process. “shlha, shlha!” (Grab them), they yell.
“Only the good red ones!” One of the elders calls out from a nearby doorway. The scent of coffee and fresh bread course through the air. The sound of laughter rises from the children. A pleasant atmosphere encompasses the farm.
” Ana al Faiz! Ana al Faiz! (I won), shouts one beaming brown-eyed boy. The rest race and gather to examine his enormous collection of red beans. The other boys clap him after tipping all their cherries into a close basket.
“And that is how they crafted a game that made us excited to help on the farm” describes my father. A picture of hard work and happiness rolled together. The fondness for the time simply spent together, a close family working in the soil of the terraced coffee farms. “We used to pick up the skins from the kitchen floor after they had dried, and chew on them”, he laughs.
So uncomplicated, yet what an impact that collection made to the elders. If only all of life’s work could be played like the fallen bean game.
Inspired by the narration of Grandma Fatima’s Grandson.