It's late afternoon, I've made myself a cup of mint tea and I'm thinking about the time when I realized that I am continuing a tradition, going back, ummmmm, a few years:
Why do you always have teeeeeeeeeeeeeah? My college roommate whined in her nasally Boston suburb accent with her nose and her little finger in the air.
I was puzzled, I was just having a snack. “What do you mean?” I replied, scrunching my brows together.
“Every day at four o’clock you stop everything, make a pot of tea and have cookies.” Pointing her nose farther into the air, “You’re so English.”
“You do it all in a certain order, you put the kettle on to boil, never use the microwave, you wait for the water from the faucet to get hot, you rinse out the pot, pour it out, put the tea into the pot, which is inches away from the kettle, place the cup on the table with a plate with two to three cookies on it with a sugar bowl and the pitcher of milk. You get something to read and arrange it all on the table. The water boils and you pour it into the pot and place it on the table. After a few minutes you pour yourself a cup. You sit, read and drink tea for about a half hour. Everyday it is the same. You have teeeeeeeeeeeeeeah.”
I thought was just getting a snack to hold me until dinner time and taking my first real break of the day. It was my meditative time. I never considered it as part of my heritage.
Reflecting on my time at home with my family, every afternoon when my mom was home she would take a bit of a breather with a cup of tea, once in a while with a cookie, before beginning to cook dinner.
When she was working at the hospital, I did exactly the same thing. I came home from my after school activities, made myself a cup of tea, rested a bit and then cooked dinner.
On Saturdays, it was more of an event, because my dad was home. We’d be doing some projects around the house and around four o’clock he’d seek everyone out and ask, “How about a cup of tea?” There would be an extra bounce in his step if someone had made a pie. He would put the water in the English electric teakettle (bought in England in the 1970's while on vacation), which he had run special major appliance wiring for because it was 220v. In about a minute, the water would be heated (thanks to the extra electricity), the cups, napkins, sugar and milk placed on the table, with the cookies or pie ready. In a few minutes an announcement passed through the house to come have our tea and something sweet. I don’t ever remember any of us raising our little fingers, though.
It was our transition from our busy afternoons to our evening time. The world could wait a few minutes until our cups were empty.
I realize now that a little ceremony, a cookie and some tea might be what my daughter, husband and I might need to help settle in for the evening.
Besides, it’s our heritage.