Tuesday, January 29, 2008


And then, soaking in the hot, steaming water, the silken pyramid bobbed to and fro in the swirls of comfort and shared fragrance. I handed Emily her mug of tea, and as it steeped, we spoke of sugar, and missing one another, and small talk that was large when passed over the tea tray. The tangy scent of a dubious newcomer, decaf plum, offered itself to the inquiry of one Mr. Jonny Walls, who poked and prodded the air with his nose. He declared on the spot that it smelled like dill, but not unpleasantly so. He was right. How plum and dill happen to sprout from the same teacup one can never be sure, but he drank his plumdilly tea to the last drop. "One lump or two?" is never an appropriate question to pose to John, who plunges sugar cubes into his tea with reckless abandon. And I drained the kettle of the last of its water, resulting in a three quarter cup of Lady Grey. The Lady is an old friend. We have spent many pleasant evenings together, chasing away damp winter chill and embracing the light and words and muffled sound of the indoors. She is an elegant, constant companion and her absence is always a somber one.
The tea tray is a curious object. A rectangle, mine is a modern plastic, though bamboo, teak or wicker would be more texturally appropriate. But the colors and pattern make up for the shiny, unforgiving surface. It bears a scene of a French sidestreet and loads the space with reds and greens favored among colors in my home. It held, last night, four new mugs of earthenware that rebelled against common classification of heavy or unwielding. Though stone, they are light and pleasant to hold, like stone in Rivendell, I imagine. A pile of sugar cubes resembled a shoddy ancient wonder, an amateur pyramid. The lone creamer we received as a wedding gift stood stocked and graceful with milk to be splashed in among the teabags. Every time I glance at the creamer I feel a distinct sense of satisfaction in our good taste. True, there is no sugar bowl to accompany it, and it is the only item of that pattern to grace our humble home, but it is beautiful, and we receive compliments on it that attest to that fact. And playing teatime made us all sit up straight and formal for some time, until we relaxed into the space spreading out from the teatray like a little pool of shells and fish by the ocean; and then we savored not just the tea but the dense, heavy comfort that freed laughter to ring out and jest to punctuate the hours and minutes.
Ours is not a kettle that stays cold.

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