Drinking Tea Out of Grandmothers' Mugs


Twenty-five years ago, I had my first cup of hot tea. I remember my mother and father joking about the sweet tea-milk-sugar ratio that their fourth-grade daughter favored. I remember my dad saying, “So, you really like weak tea, huh?” I remember being a little put off that I would be associated with anything weak, understanding little about strength of a brew. I vaguely remember my father comparing my tea strength preferences to my paternal grandmother’s. She passed that spring, two days after her birthday. After she died, my parents inherited a very old tea cup from France, from where my paternal grandfather’s family emigrated. It is tiny and red-golden with a picture painted on it, more ornamental than functional. I inherited it after my wedding. It is on display in my house and though I don’t know much about it, I imagine the story of its travel. Someone carefully packed what she would need for her new life in America, and then she packed this thing that was breakable and not necessary, but to her, worth the risk and the suitcase space. This tea-cup ties me to my family heritage and makes me ask more questions about who I am and how we are all connected.

It might be easy to assume that I frequently drank tea with my grandmothers. I did have an occasional cup of tea at my maternal grandmother’s house, more often as I grew older. Her dishes were from the Corelle Spring Blossom 1970s collection. When she passed this January, her cupboard held one teacup and four coffee mugs. No one else who helped to clean out her home wanted the dishes and I was glad to bring them home and give them a second story. As I washed all of those Corelle dishes and placed them into my own cupboard, I observed how there were only a few left, which means they must have been used enough to break over time and be well-worn in time and story. Just a few days before she died, I made a cup of tea intended for my grandmother, but she never had the appetite to drink it. Everything becomes precious when we know that no more will be.

My husband grew up with a grandmother who fed him breakfast and quizzed him on his assignments before elementary school. In between questions, she sipped her coffee. He can still hear the sipping sounds and her breath between those review questions. His grandmother passed in January 2016 and we inherited a mug from her home as well. She used to have the mugs hanging on the wall near the kitchen table and my husband remembers looking at a mug with the Columbia Space Shuttle image in between questions. When her house was cleaned out, there were only a few left. The space shuttle one remained and we brought it home to give it a second story. 

My fingers slide familiarly into the warm handles and suddenly, the cups are a link to the past, putting us on the other side of our grandmothers’ legacies. The cups are the present, as I form habits of repetitive use each morning. The cups are also a link to the future because they are in our house, participants in making memories and forming character in our children and someday, perhaps, with our grandchildren.

Today, as we drink tea out of those cups, we get to take a sip, close our eyes, breathe, love on one another, and take another sip. I believe in drinking tea out of grandmothers’ mugs.

If you enjoyed this post and would like to read on, check out last week's post titled This I Believe. Like what you read? Leave some love or ask questions in the comments below. You can log in through Google Plus, Facebook, or Smug Mug!

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