I know she loved tea…..And chain smoking in her house smock….. And barking at her husband.
I imagine her delicately-flowered teapot with a gradation of brown rings inside, marking days upon weeks upon years of drinking orange pekoe.
These stains, a reminder that you don’t do something every single day unless it means something.
I didn’t really know her very long, but she passed this daily tea ritual down to my mom, her daughter.
I know my mom loves tea. Though she substitutes the puffing and barking for smiles and socializing.
Growing up I viewed drinking tea as something you just did as an adult. Tea was social. Tea was a necessity. Tea was hospitable. Tea was a habit worth having every day. Tea meant something more than just tea.
Now it is becoming a mainstay in my day. Maybe I love the sound of the kettle the most, but the ritual of making tea (and more often, coffee) and sitting with it always makes me slow down to think about what it means.
Now it means things like…. I have some mom friends over and maybe the food may be lacking (read: leftovers and pantry crumbs) BUT there is something warm to drink. It means there are also some giggling kids forming friendships and tossing toys about. More though, this handful of women are moving the conversation from poop and small talk into their marriage struggles and mom fails. There is support, and laughter, and trust.
Or, my sister in laws are here. The kettle is going non-stop and there is a quiet ease in their company. Watching how they relate to their environment is inspiring. Watching their relationship with their brother, my husband, made me KNOW I wanted to have a third kid.
Sometimes I’m sitting with my husband at the end of the night and we are speaking quietly in a half-lit kitchen both with some tea we are both too wussy to drink piping hot. Pauses and lilts in our voices have years of meaning behind them, I know what he says when I can’t hear him. Because he is the one sitting beside me at the end of the night, through fights and frustrations and sleep deprivation and my crazy expectations. He’s mine and I am his and we can just sit here and drink our lukewarm tea.
Maybe it’s the afternoon, and I want to eat all of the cookies and drink all of the coffee, so I flick on the kettle. Because a simple choice like a warm drink means I’m slowing down. Which can be so important in motherhood. You can lose yourself in the perceived urgency and relentlessness.
But now I will sit and sip and listen and watch, and hopefully, my kids will join me too.