Sunday, August 21, 2005
a cup of tea
I have developed quite a habit recently. Late at night when I can't sleep.
I like to make a cup of tea.
In my pajamas with my deliciously warm blue 'Grover' (or 'Cookie Monster' or any blue Muppet) jumper made for me by Carly. I stand quietly listening to the kettle boil. Under the dull, warm oven light. I pop a tea bag in my only cup and saucer set which was a gift from a beautiful friend. And I have a cup of tea. And I think.
Whenever I have a cup of tea there are a few things I can't avoid thinking about. The best thing about this is that all the things that I can't avoid thinking about when I have a cup of tea are either funny or family oriented. Which is partly why, I believe, I can curl back into bed and doze off 'til morning.
I think of my Dad. He drinks tea. All kinds of tea. Lots of tea. Rarely is the tiny table next to his recliner chair or his computer desk at home devoid of his teapot and cup. Rarely is the air never filled with Dad calling out, "you guys want a cup of tea?".
I think of my Grandma Gebert. You would think that there was no other room in that old house other than the kitchen. It is where we all gather and end up staying. It was as though we orbited the kettle. It would be boiled many, many times and boxes of different types of tea passed around and chosen. It is where Grandpa sat in his old wooden and blue leather chair in the prime spot of the kitchen. His chair was opposite where Grandma would sit on a red stool next to the kitchen sink and oversee everything. Where we grandkids (and I'm sure some adults) would wait for the moment Grandma opened up a jar of Chico Babies or Kool Mints or Mint Leaves and offered them to us. Or when she would get a Collins Street Bakery cake tin out of the cupboard and hug the tin as she took off the lid to reveal her delicious Anzac biscuits or a homemade fruitcake. Better still her going into the cupboard in the sleep-out and revealing a box of her home made chocolates.
I think of my Grandma and Grandpa Birch. Always tea, coffee and biscuits or bun or cake. The difference here was that - now - I'm allowed to make the tea or coffee for everybody. An incident of any kind at Grandma and Grandpa's place was never lived down. At a Christmas dinner when I was little I knocked over a container. The container was holding beetroot in all its juicy glory. Don't think for a minute that it doesn't still come up when I visit. The incident that nearly had me banned from making coffee or tea for the family? I was making coffee for my aunt and uncle and cousin. Quite happily finding my way around Grandma's little kitchen. My cousin has sugar in his coffee. So I look around the shelves remembering that little yellow Tupperware container with the little flippy lid she used for the sugar. There it is! I grab it and, as requested, scoop two heaped teaspoons of sugar into his coffee. I pop the little yellow container back on the shelf and hand out the drinks. My cousin takes a big mouthful and without moving the mug from his lips looks up at me with a look of "umm...". He puts the mug on the table, runs outside and spits it out. Meanwhile, everyone is asking him what's wrong, including me and he says,"It tastes disgusting!" My uncle picks up the mug, sniffs it, takes a sip and states "It's got salt instead of sugar!" So, of course they all start laughing at my poor cousin and me and Grandma starts shouting "What did you put in his coffee? Where did you get the sugar from?" So I point out the little yellow container to which Grandma replies by opening the pantry and pointing to a shelf with the exact same little yellow container sitting on it, "THAT'S the sugar!!! You put SALT in his coffee!!" By that time, uncle, aunt and cousin are laughing their heads off and I am quite naturally fending off their teasing. To this day, if I ever make them coffee or tea, there tend to be little gibes like "one sugar thanks... that's SUGAR, not SALT." Chuckle, chuckle.
I think of the wonderful people of England. They are forever having cups of tea. Just thinking about having a cup of tea my brain says "cuppa tea, love?" in a thick Londoner accent. I love that.
I think of French and Saunders. They do a hilarious parody of an apparently existential, depressing Swedish film by Ingmar Bergman which I haven't seen but would love to in order to make comparisons, and in part of it Dawn utters with frustration at Jennifer:
"Listen! I am trying to cope with the presence of God and the universal human experience and I haven't even had a cup of tea yet!"
Always makes me giggle.
Time for a cup of tea now.