She’s soaked from walking in the rain. Running to the car or holding up the umbrella are next to impossible today. Her eyes are fixed on her vehicle, until a man dashes to his car in seconds to avoid getting wet. She manages to swallow her envy and anger, but on days like this her throat is left sore. Every step brings with it pain, but thinking about her disadvantage never did serve her and she must regain focus. The car is so close now. When she gets inside, she takes a deep breath.
At home, she concentrates on getting to the kitchen. She knows she must do this before she sits down or she may not get back up for some time. She grabs the kettle and boils the water. Lifting the lid from the box never gets old. She doesn’t always know which one will call out to her, but Earl Grey Cream usually selects her when she’s in this state.
On very good days, she opens them all and smells each one. This ritual, performed with eyes closed, fills her with memories of strawberry and apple picking, plates of wholesome oats, roasted nuts, brown sugar, cream and fresh berries at Gran’s farm. She can almost taste the orange-coconut cake to serve as her dose of sunshine, while she watches tropical storms from the porch. Memories of campfire s’mores, blueberry waffles on Saturday mornings, banana pancakes and cartoons on Sundays, sleeping in the tree-house with a tray of Mom’s chocolate chip cookies, lemon Valentine’s cupcakes, Christmas morning cinnamon rolls, and Thanksgiving pumpkin spice come flooding back.
Sometimes later memories come to mind, but the ones of her childhood are her favourites. She could be fully present in those days without trying so hard. The most vivid memories come for a visit on better days.
But today is a Cream Earl Grey evening. These leaves came to her later in life. It may not be her source for nostalgia, but it is her safe haven, where vanilla and a creamy finish marry in a bergamot cathedral to comfort her spirit. None of her ghosts, good or bad, are evoked by these leaves. Memories of when she was more present and her senses were less directed at her pain lift her up sometimes, but on days like this she doesn’t want to be reminded of who she was before. Cream Earl Grey gives her the gift of being present in the now…in spite of her condition.
After smelling the leaves again, she places some in her brown Betty and pours the water after it has cooled for three minutes. Standing is challenging, but she waits to avoid burning the leaves. She learned this from Taylor, who owns the place in the town over where she gets her precious teas.
She places the brown Betty on a tray. The creamer, sugar and her favourite teacup and spoon follow. She takes a deep breath and with the greatest of care not to drop it, she carries the tray to the tea table in front of the sofa. She’s just about to sit down when there is a knock at the door. She wants to ignore it, but then she hears Mrs. Parcell calling out to her. Her irritation is swallowed by the sound of a warm voice that has always been kind to her. Scones were baked that afternoon and Doris Parcell, baker extraordinaire, had put some aside just for her, with some Devon cream and preserves. Sometimes – not often, but sometimes – the universe decides to ‘gift’ her at the perfect moment.
She offers her into the home, and it is graciously declined. Mrs. Parcell is perceptive; the young woman needs time to decompress and rest her weary frame.
She places two scones and a few spoons of the cream and preserve onto a plate and brings it to the tea table with greater ease. It’s a manageable weight, and her steps are more tolerable because she knows that very soon she will feel better.
She inhales the tea’s scent as she pours, picks up the cup to feel its warmth against her hands, and takes a good sip. This is a fine blend with the perfect finish. There is nothing but sheer appreciation and gratitude in her heart at this very moment. She’ll sit there for a good hour or more, until the pot is finished and she is ready to take her bath.