Tea, Mom, and Me

When I was a child the tea my mother served was Lipton tea, prepared with a tea bag. The Arthur Godfrey show was sponsored by the Lipton Tea company and I remember Arthur telling everyone how delicious it was and how one tea bag would make 3 cups of tea. My mother took him at his word! 
When my mother and I shared a cup of tea we were sharing a special moment and even as a small child, I knew it. She would stop whatever she was doing and put the kettle on to boil while she made toast. About the same time the kettle began to whistle the toast popped up and she would pour the boiling water into my waiting tea cup with the Lipton tea bag. Then she would bring the hot toast to the table and lavishly spread it with butter. After a few minutes the tea would be ready and she would pass me the sugar bowl and the pitcher of milk. I was allowed to put as much sugar and milk in my tea as I wanted and I felt very grown up. My favorite part of having tea was dipping my warm buttery toast into the hot, sweet, milky tea and taking a giant, soggy bite before it could fall back into my teacup.
Later in my life, when my parents were divorced, my father was given custody of the three of us children due to my mother’s mental instability. For several years after that my mother chose to live in her car and traveled all over the United States alone. The backseat was her bed, the trunk held her clothes, camp stove, pots, pans, a tea kettle, and the turquoise blue dishes she treasured and used every day. Occasionally she would return to Indiana for a visit, and I knew she was coming because her visits were always preceded by a dream of a giant swirling cup of hot, sweet, milky tea.
Finally, after 30 years of living life alone in Arizona she returned to Indiana to complete her cycle of life with our family. Often, when I visited her small apartment she would put her bright red tea kettle on the stove to heat, and when the water boiled she would let the kettle whistle for a really, really long time. I asked her why she let it whistle for so long, and she told me it was because when the kettle was whistling its’ merry little tune she felt like someone was “home”.
That’s how I feel every morning when I have my hot, sweet, milky tea. I feel like someone’s “home”, and that someone is me.

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