Two for Tea

The tea in my cup was too hot to drink, so I set it down and answered the question that my brother-in-law had asked, “The Charleston Tea Company Website claims that it’s the only tea plantation in the continental United States. Since I like tea so much and I want to see what the plants look like, but don’t want to go overseas, that’s one place we’ll go.”

My family had just finished eating the Easter meal at my house and were loosening their belts to relax with cups of tea and fluffy, dairy-rich desserts. My sister said, “I’ve always thought of tea being grown in China, India or Malaysia. How did you find out about this plantation?”

Letting a forkful of fruit fluff melt in my mouth before answering, I said, “I can’t even remember how I first discovered it located on an island hugging the coast of South Carolina. I never thought I’d actually go there!”

My oldest grandson questioned, “South Carolina is a long way to go to just see a tea plantation!”

Taking a sip of the delicious aromatic black tea in my cup, I smiled and explained, “My friend Val, who edits my articles, moved to North Carolina last summer. Tammie and I decided to go visit her this year.” Continue reading

Subtle Season

One very cold morning last February, after we’d had a mini blizzard in the night, I found the roads snow-covered as I drove into town. By noon the sky cleared and a small, weakling sun shone down from the pale-blue winter sky. Despite the cold temperatures, I noticed that patches of snow on the blacktop road were melting. I thought with a wry grin on my face, “This is the start of spring.”

Most people would strongly deny that spring was finally returning to our northern ice-blocked land on that February day. Only when the grass is green, the trees have leaves and the temperatures are shirt-sleeve comfortable, is spring generally recognized.

Spring in Wisconsin is very subtle. It arrives slowly. Each stride it makes is the size of a “chicken step”, my Mom’s term to describe how slowly days become longer after the winter solstice. Instead of lengthening the usual three minutes a day, the days in December and January lengthen by only a minute or two. That same slow, but steady progress is the way spring returns to the northern hemisphere. Continue reading

Li’l Miss Kettlehead

The backdoor slammed and I heard my big brother talking to Mom in the kitchen. “The wind has died down, so it would be a good time for me to burn the garbage. We were out of matches the other day. Did you buy some when you were in town?”

Dropping the comic book that I’d been looking at, I ran into the kitchen and exclaimed, “I want to watch you burn things!”

Mom reached into the drawer where the matches were kept and handed the box to my brother. She said, “Watch Kathy so she doesn’t get too close to the fire.”

By the time small flames were beginning to lick at the contents of the bathroom wastepaper basket, two big sisters and another brother joined us for the entertaining spectacle.

Having found a nice, big, sturdy stick so I could poke at things as they burned, I patiently waited for the fire to grow. Empty toilet paper cardboard rolls turned black when the flame touched them. Small orange flames above the blackened areas chewed hungrily until the roll was reduced to nothing but a pile of white ash. Wads of toilet paper that we’d used to blow our noses burst up into flames before disappearing just as quickly. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a wad of toilet paper, wiped my nose, then threw it into the fire. Poof! Continue reading

Haunted

One of the patients assigned to me for the shift put her call light on. I walked into her hospital room and she said, “I want to get up for a short walk, but I’ll need your help.”

I said, “I’ll unplug your IV pump while you roll to your side and sit up.” Leaning over, I put slippers on her feet and a bathrobe over her shoulders. As we walked, we talked, but kept to light topics. Returning to the room, the patient wanted to return to bed so I helped her in.

As I worked and answered her questions, I was thinking about the things that had happened to me a few months earlier when my husband unexpectedly died.

There were times in the year following his death that I would wonder with amazement, “No one knows I’m having these thoughts! I’m acting calm and untroubled while remembering the sheriff coming to my house, walking into the emergency department and seeing Arnie dead, making decisions that I never thought I’d have to make, calling and telling people!” Continue reading

Story Portrait

Leftover snow from winter lined fences and ditches that Sunday afternoon. During the previous week, fickle spring weather see-sawed back and forth between snow and rain. Today, Dame March was treating Wisconsin to warm sunshine and gentle breezes. Sighing contentedly, I signaled to turn at the next cross road. I’d decided to drop in on my sister and her husband for a short afternoon visit.

Better than a doorbell, Susie the one-year-old black pug announced my arrival before I even reached their door. Agnes cheerfully greeted me and said, “I was just making blueberry pancakes for Jim. Would you like a cup of tea?” I nodded with a smile and sat down at the table.

Placing a steaming cup in front of me, Agnes asked, “Would you like pancakes, too?” The pancakes she’d made were beautiful; filled with plump, fresh berries.

Breathing in the aroma of black tea, I answered with contented satisfaction, “No thanks. The tea is all I want.” Jim sat down across the table from me and buttered the pancakes on his plate. Continue reading

Where it Drains

Sun was shining into the kitchen when I stepped in to make my breakfast. My heart lifted. After so many dreary, cold winter days, I felt more than ready to enjoy spring. My instant plan for the day was to change the bedding, wash a load of laundry and then go outside to tidy the yard by picking up broken branches.

Spring days are unreliable. By the time I had finished stripping the bed and starting the laundry, it had clouded over again. Disappointed, I bundled up to go outside anyway. It didn’t take long for me to appreciate my jacket and scarf after stepping out of the house. Although the thermometer said it was a pleasant forty degrees, wind blowing over snowbanks in the fields around the house picked up a tremendous amount of chilly dampness.

Trying to decide where to start my clean-up, I glanced around the bleak, winter-ravaged yard. Melted snow puddled here and there on the gravel driveway. None of the puddles were very large, though. The natural, gentle slope of the yard made the water slowly trickle downhill toward the river south of my house. Water from the spring runoff already filled the normally trickling, Little Eau Pleine River to a raging current. The gushing, rushing torrent of water could easily be heard from my back door. Continue reading

Ashes to Glory

Pale dawn light was peeking in the bedroom windows when I opened my eyes. Rolling over onto my back I began to think, as I do each morning upon first awaking, about what day it was and what jobs I wanted to accomplish before night fall. It was already the middle of the week! At the beginning of winter, I had assigned Wednesdays as the day to do my once a week wood-pellet-furnace cleaning. If I wanted the fire out and the firebox cool enough for me to clean it by the time I was dressed, had finished my morning prayers and eaten breakfast, I needed to turn it off now.

Slipping out of bed, I thrust my feet into slippers and slowly shuffled toward the staircase. As I passed the living room, I noticed a doll laying in the middle of the floor. My daughter and her children had visited me last night as they do every Tuesday evening. The rest of my trip to the basement was spent thinking about my grandchildren. How protectively my grandson Ben had held his little sister Gemma when she cried! What a funny face toddler Blaise had made when he sucked on the fresh lemon wedge, yet kept going back for more! A flip of a switch and the furnace was off.

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, landed on March 1st this year. I hadn’t started my winter routine of cleaning the furnace every Wednesday with this in mind, but today I chuckled about spending my day in ashes, both secular and liturgical. Continue reading