My Grandmother's Teacups
Visiting my grandparent's house as a child is one of my earliest memories of teacups. In the afternoon, I would eat Lipton chicken noodle soup (with extra noodles) for lunch.
I had the option of eating crackers with my soup: dry saltines, small oyster crackers, or buttery Townhouse sleeves. I would crumble handfuls into a canopy across the artificial, salty broth, clouding its color with soggy pieces.
After lunch, my grandpa would take my older brother to shoot BB-guns or go fishing. To entertain me, my grandma would take out the plastic bag from the coat closet and remove a white plastic tea set. She would set the pieces across the octagon dining room table. We each received a cup and saucer, then the teapot and spoons.
In the kitchen, I would watch her make a glass pitcher of iced tea, stirring it with a wooden spoon. When it was done, she would pour it into our teapot. I remember the taste of the warm, sugary drink -- the hard edge of the plastic teacup, the afternoon sun through the window.
As I got older, my tea-opportunities expanded. My grandmother and her friends found a teahouse in Andover, New Jersey, an old Victorian home on a large piece of property.
On weekends, she would drive the 30 miles to my country town and pick me up. I would wear a dress and fancy shoes. I learned about high tea and its pastries, tea varieties, and etiquette. It was a different world than the one I lived day-to-day.
After my grandfather died, my grandmother traveled around Europe. She took river cruises and excursions, sometimes with friends and sometimes alone. In every country she visited, she tried to bring back a teacup, eventually lining two dining room shelves with various teacup patterns.
Through high school and into college, tea became a central drink in my life.
I moved in with my grandmother to commute to college. Late nights writing essays I would balance a cup of tea between my papers. After my morning cup of coffee, I would take tea to work with me. On sick days, I would climb the Stairs from Hell at MSU, balancing a Dunkin Donuts paper cup (black tea, no milk) on top of my books.
When my best friend visited from New York, my grandmother would offer, "I'll put on a pot of tea. Go pick a cup." She would search the kitchen for a treat: biscotti, sugar cookies, lemon cake and more, as Kathryn and I went to the hutch to pick a mug.
I always chose a dark blue and white mug, short and fat, from Russia. Kathryn's pick varied based on the time of year. Normally something with flowers and a thin handle.
At first, we held our breath, making sure not to hit the spoon too hard on the cup as we stirred our honey. I was afraid we would ruin them.
But as the years progressed, we were upgraded to the real teapot from the glass hutch. We would settle into my kitchen island and talk for hours and hours, refilling our cups until we had caught up on everything.
My grandmother's birthday is in two weeks.
This year, she would've been 81.
Last week, Jamie surprised me with an orange tea-set. I cried when I opened it.
Looking at my new tea-set reminded me of all these memories with my grandmother -- of the discussions we had, the goodies we shared, and what I wish I could tell her now.
With each cup of tea, my grandmother taught me about the power of time well-spent.
While I may not have photos from our adventures over the years, I hold her memory in my writing, her wisdom in my mind, and send my love through every cup of tea.