In the past two years I have slowly watched the life leaving my grandparents eyes. This has not been an easy time for anyone in my family. As a matter of fact, they have been that to every member of my family throughout their years together. When I mindfully recall memories of my grandparents, it undoubtedly involves the drinking of tea. From a very young age, whenever there was time for conversation, time for relaxing, or a stressful situation, a cup of tea was always, without fail, a part of it all.
My first poignant memory of drinking tea with Gram(my grandmother) was during one of the many sleepovers I had at her home. I was about 6 years old and I was staying over without my older brother. He is only 18 months older so we usually were sent on sleepovers together. But, that particular night he had something fun of his own to do, so I was rewarded with my own night with my grandparents. Every time we stayed over, which was usually a Saturday night, we watched The Lawrence Welk Show, Love Boat, and Fantasy Island, in that order. Being that we were never allowed to stay up that late at home, this was a bona fide treat. As tradition would have it, that night was no different. After sitting together and laughing at Tatoo say "Look da plane boss, da plane", and wishing I had hair like Barbie Benton, I was tucked into bed. She sang the closing song from the Lawrence Welk Show(Goodnight, Sleeptight) to me, as she did everytime she tucked me or my brother into bed. My bedroom was my Uncle Joe's old room. It was the size of a walk in closet, with a large, old wooden trunk, a dresser and single bed with a trains on the bed spread(no comforters or duvet covers at that time). Several animal and decorative pillows that matched the bedspread were lined against the wall and corner into which the bed was crammed. I loved that room, so you can imagine my disappointment when I became sick all over my favorite animal pillows and the bedspread. I had only been asleep a few hours when I woke up and tried to run into the bathroom across the hall to vomit. I had the flu, on the night of my special sleepover. I thought my Gram would be mad at the mess I had made of the bed, of course I was wrong. She could have cared less about the bed, she only cared about me. Being sick at Gram's house turned out to be a much better time than being sick at home. Gram was a natural at making me feel safe and cared for that night, something that my mother never did when my brother or I got sick. I must have gotten my "nursing" genes from my Gram because my Mother has no such genes.
After my horrible retching had subsided, my Gram took me downstairs to wipe off my mouth, and wash my hair, which had been a casualty of my battle with the toilet. She always washed her hair in the kitchen sink, so that night my hair was washed in the kitchen sink. The kitchen was an extremely tiny room. I still find it unbelievable the meals she was able to create and serve in that tiny space. There was a table set up against the wall with three chairs, if anyone wanted to open the oven or the refrigerator, you had to move from your chair. However, the important and memorable moment was the cup of tea she served me. I will never forget that night. I was a big girl, having a cup of tea with my Gram in the middle of the night. I felt like I had grown up in one day. That night I night I drank my best cup of tea with my Gram.
Ever since that time in my Gram's kitchen, every significant time in my life revolved around a cup of tea. The tea is never anything fancy, usually Lipton, Red Rose, or Tetley. For anyone who drinks Red Rose Tea, they know how there are little ceramic figurines in ever box. A permanent reminder of all the tea I have drank can be found in an old printer's box that hangs in my powder room. Most of the shelves are filled with the figures from the Red Rose Tea boxes of my past.
Tea was and is always served with milk and sugar, although, the sweetener has changed through the years. My Gram and my Mum were, and still are, always on a diet, so the sweetening changed from saccharine to Sweetnlow to the present day Splenda. I have broke the mold by moving into sugar in the raw. I figure anything that carries the warning: causes cancer in rats, is not a good thing when there is a perfectly natural substance that will sweeten just as well, if not better. If you come to my house and you are offered a cup of tea, that is how it will be served.
My children have embraced the cup of tea with the same enthusiasm that I did when I was their age. They have learned to find comfort and conversation in a cup of tea; they drink it after school, on weekend mornings, or when they relax with a book. Recently, I woke up to find my 6 year old daughter, watching the birds in the bird feeder, while curled up under a blanket, in a wing back chair, beside the burning fireplace, and sipping a cup of tea. She even made the tea in a fancy teacup from my collection of china teacups. I do not know if that was her best cup of tea, but it will certainly be a cup of tea I never forget. It will be a marker in my life of the day she became a big girl, just like that night I slept over my grandparent's house.
Living life with small rituals, like drinking a cup of tea, can make the mundane, otherwise forgettable moments, memorable.
What was your most memorable cup of coffee or tea?