“Arthur blinked at the screens and felt he was missing something important. Suddenly he realized what it was. “Is there any tea on this spaceship?” he asked.”A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Last week, the flu quickly took out half of the office. I was an early casualty and was falsely identified as Patient Zero. I maintained my innocence (as Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me” plays in the background) and pointed in the direction of the Social Media Manager.
As far as I can recall, my maternal grandmother, aka, “Momma”, began making me peppermint tea when I started getting debilitating cramps that kept me home from Junior High school. She would sit with me and rub my back, as I writhed in pain and hold my hand until the pain passed.
I was Momma’s first grandchild, and these tea times just became another of our special moments. Like going with her as she took her utility cart through the park to the grocery store. The library was next door and she would let me gather books for the week as she shopped – then I’d add my books on top of the grocery bags and help pull it back home. That supermarket is gone, but the library is still there.
Her making me peppermint tea became a cure-all any time I was hurting. Momma was there with peppermint tea with the perfect amount of honey.
First broken heart. We didn’t talk about what had happened, but she knew something had happened as I came home, flung myself across my bed in tears and blasted an 80’s mixtape on a loop that I know had to have included big ballads by Journey, Luther Vandross, Chicago and Atlantic Starr.
Having four daughters, by the time my teenage angst made an appearance in her life, the details weren’t necessary – she was a woman of few words, so I don’t remember us talking about it or her giving me any particular piece of advice, but she let me cry myself out, held my hand while I writhed in pain and rubbed my back until the pain lessened.
Other items replaced peppermint tea as my pick me up through the years, Welch’s grape soda and puffy Cheetos during High School and undergrad – even now I might still pop into a bodega to get those teenage staples when adulting gets to be too much. Coffee, a grande caramel macchiato with extra caramel, no foam, whole milk and stirred – I allow myself one per week because it gets me “turnt up”, when I am at a stage of embracing “turning down”.
But as life’s issues got more complicated and painful, whatever I was searching for as a resolution just got more expensive and didn’t offer Momma’s comfort. Fancy custom teacups ordered from the Ukraine or exotic tea blends with names like Rum Raisin Biscotti or Spiced Ginger Plum, were temporary balms.
Sojourns far from home, sitting for hours staring into the Pacific (Maui), the Ligurian Sea (Cinque Terre), or Table Bay (Cape Town) with wine, while listening to Jill Scott or Fred Hammond and hoping that I’d “Eat Pray Love” myself upon some life transforming answer, while beautiful, were also temporary distractions.
Momma’s been gone about nine years. I moved back to New York to help with her care, the roles reversed. I never made her tea, but I would feed her things she liked, like applesauce. Though she was in pain, she never cried. She just pushed through her emotions like always and so unlike the way I let mine consume me.
I know that I didn’t appreciate our tea times for what they were, until recently. I don’t even have a memory of the last time we drank tea together. I wish that I had Dumbledore’s pensieve, so that I could find that moment and take in everything. I wish I had paid more attention to her exact preparation in tea and life.
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