Steeped In Memories
|You know how a smell can trigger a memory? For me … Earl Grey tea is one of the most powerful smells around. Not because of the delicate herbs and spices -- but because Earl Grey smells like summer afternoons with my grandmother.
Grandma Kathy was born in Australia, and came to the United States after marrying my grandfather. She and Grandpa Joe had two kids -- my uncle John, and my father. They lived all over the world when my dad was growing up, but somewhere along the way, bought a house in Maine. And Maine is where I spent all my summers as a kid.
Maine is also where my parents and grandparents tracked my growth. Even today, if you go to the kitchen doorway, you'll see some fading pen and pencil marks, starting toward the bottom and moving up about 65 inches. And next to those marks, you'll see a series of months and days -- I remember standing against the wall, as tall as I could, and waiting for my parents to mark my height. We did it every trip to my grandparents' house, until I reached my adult height. Once the mark was made, I would stand back and marvel at how much I had grown since the last mark (1 whole inch!! 3 whole inches!!)
And then … we would sit at the kitchen table … and drink tea. Earl Grey tea, to be exact, and since I was obviously growing taller, I was also becoming an adult! So each summer, my grandmother would "celebrate" my growth by letting me in on the tea ceremony. She, my mother and I would wait for the water to boil, then sit patiently while the strong tea steeped in Kathy's porcelain teapot. Finally, it would be ready, and someone would pour me a cup.
When I was younger, I'm pretty sure my "tea" was mostly milk with a few drops of the brew. As the summers went by, I was allowed a more adult ratio and the "tea" went from being milky white to a beautiful tan color. And somewhere along the way, I was allowed to make my own tea. But no matter what, tea time meant a chance to sit with my mother and grandmother, and talk.
So even now, whether it's in the coffee shop or at home, just the whiff of Earl Grey takes me right back to that kitchen table. And that's a memory I look forward to sharing with my own kids and grandkids … so they will always have a piece of Grandma Kathy.
I don't get up to Maine as much as I would like to, and I don't see my grandparents as much as I would love to. But I know that Kathy still has her tea ceremonies, and I'm sure she remembers those summers with me. I hope someday my kids will get to make their own memories, while sitting next to Grandma Kathy at that same kitchen table.
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