Lessons learned from a 140-year old coffee grinder and milling memories with my daughter.

7 insights gleaned from slowing down to hand-mill coffee beans while savoring memories of family history.

© Devin D. Marks

Odd family relics can be life-changing.

They don’t have to be a painting or Tiffany Lamp.

For example, my family treasures a humble coffee mill.

It is an attic castoff I reclaimed years ago in our Old Kentucky Home.

Timeless, the 19th-century technology cranks away like it was 1884. Eyes closed, sometimes I imagine I’m in my great-great grandmomma’s southern kitchen.

My daughter grew up with it — periodically giving it a whirl and brewing beans with me.

When grinding with her, I share varied stories about the mill’s former owners.

In graduate school, when she was 2 or 3, it was a weekly habit we shared: milling beans and yarns.

But then the coffee habit faded. We moved to Boston. She started grade school. Hip espresso spots beckoned. My work sky-rocketed.

These days we’re Covid-refugees in Montana. Life’s slower. So when a box of organic beans unexpectedly arrived at the cabin (a gift from Purity Coffee’s owners) I took it as a sign.

Lilly Grace declared, “We should hand grind the beans and surprise Momma!”

She pulled the mill down from the fireplace mantle.

Within a few rhythmic handle rotations, we were again visiting with kinfolk in that bygone kitchen.

Despite a distance of 4–5 generations, “our people” were together again.

Simple family rituals, like hand-milled coffee, can slow us enough to savor bygones.

TAKE ACTION: 7 insights gleaned from slowing down to hand-mill coffee beans while savoring memories of family history.

When we reclaim an item from another generation, it can become an heirloom offering stories and lessons. In fact, our family’s old coffee mill offers a blend of lessons worth sharing.

(1) FIND A HERITAGE TOTEM. Whether a coffee mill or an egg beater; a typewriter or a baseball… Find a family castoff and make it a family heirloom. Whatever the item, it will matter to your kiddos because it matters to you. (Hint, even a few old letters or postcards — when combined with modern versions of wax sealers, fountain pens, and special paper — can work wonders to inspire a new generation of letter-writers.)

(2) STORY-WRAP A KEEPSAKE. Take that “heritage totem” and wrap it in the ritual of story. Pull that keepsake out on a regular basis — a fishing rod, a hot rod, a pocket knife — and use it as a starting point for another family memory. Wrap the entire experience in story.

(3) LEARN THE BACK-STORY. Whatever the item, learn everything you can about it. Where was it manufactured and purchased? Did it move with your ancestors? If so, where to? Is it referenced in old letters, a diary, or in the memory of Great-Aunt So-and-So? Weave all of that back-story detail into your retelling of the tale.

(4) MAKE MEMORIES MATTER. You are making memories every day. Become intentional about a handful of them. Your kiddos and their grandkids will treasure them. They’ll become part of your legacy. And because they’re ones that you inherited from your ancestors, all the richer.

(5) HABITS STICK. Whatever the item and story, ritually make a habit out of sharing the memories tied to that keepsake. That will ensure it sticks. And a sticky story is a powerful thing in creating a family culture. Just like that coffee mill, pull it out on a regular basis to commemorate a moment and retell a story.

(6) EMBRACE THE SLOW. In 2020 I learned the hard way that “productive” could only mean 30% (at best) of what was possible in the prior year. So instead of fighting that reality (e.g., Zoom schooling, life changes, Covid-refugee relocations, and more), I decided to embrace the slow; to accept that a little bit is plenty enough in 2021. And that allows for more time with my daughter milling beans and stories.

(7) PURITY COFFEE IS BETTER. I’m now a fan of Purity Coffee. This isn’t an affiliate offer or anything. Those are just darn amazing beans crafted for health (and taste). Give ’em a try here.

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Devin D. Marks

Devin D. Marks


The TED TALK Whisperer. Clients enjoy 1M+View TED Talks. Also grateful host of Thinker Thursdays™ ( Join: https://bit.ly/3kLt5wr)