This afternoon my two youngest, Renee and McKinley, insisted that we drink green tea together, as we did yesterday. They climb up on the counter, and McKinley pulls down the unmarked tin of gunpowder tea and the unwieldy jar of honey. He tries to pry the lid off the tea, but the lid is tight, even for his fierce five-year-old grip. The little pellets of tea whisper and rattle in the tin, teasing him. He moves on to the honey jar, picking first at the price tag marked with a faded $5.94 before he realizes that he’s missing the real treasure of the jar—-the gold inside. That’s when I move it beyond his reach.
Here’s how we do it. They sit on the counter, hungry for honey. I put the water in the kettle, the kettle on the stove. The igniter pops, pops, pops into a flutter of blue flames. I pry the lid off the tin and then pour the little black pearls of gunpowder into our teapot. They fall brightly into the their little womb of steeping. Then it’s time to spoon the honey into cups.
This is where things get dicey. Renee and McKinley edge closer, elbows battle, and feet threaten to knock over cups. “Back up,” I say as I ride the tip of the spoon through the thick ocean of sticky. As I slide the oozing spoon over the first cup, McKinley reaches out, unable to control the bear cub within him. “Back up!” I command. “Practice patience, McKinley, or you’ll find yourself without!”
“Sorry, Mom” he mumbles, lowering his eyes a bit and backing up maybe half an inch.
Renee is first, as she is youngest and smallest. When the spoon quits its oozing but is still drizzling I slip into her open mouth. There’s a wild twinkle in her eyes. “It’s bee-juice!” she exclaims, and I add, “and flower nectar!” McKinley get the drizzle from the second cup, I from the third, and we all mesh with the sticky wildness that melts on our tongues and sings an ancient happy tune of fields and flowers and the humming dance of bees.
Then the kettle joins our little song, and I let it’s whistle grow louder and louder. McKinley looks at me as if I’m too old to hear it. “Mom, it’s ready,” he states in a practical and nearly condescending tone. I laugh, “I know!” and then wait a full trilling three seconds before picking up the kettle, just for good measure. The boiling water goes into the teapot, the lid clinks on to the top, sealing the tea in to weave its secrets into the water. We set the timer and wait.
Two minutes. McKinley counts, “one two one two one two one two” and Renee rubs her hands together. We cut the timer off before it beeps, and I pour the steaming water into the cups. We circle about instinctively, crowding around the heat rising from kettle and cups. Then we stir. Clink, clink. Tea sloshes out of cups onto the counter.
“Let’s go upstairs,” suggests Renee in her cheerful sing-song voice. McKinley agrees that this is definitely the thing to do. After all, we did it yesterday.
So I carry the cups over to the table, climb up on the stool, and place them on the edge of the loft’s floor while they clamber up the steps. We gather our cups through the railing and begin to sip the heat. Renee sips, breathes a “Ha, ha, ha,” and then, “Feel my hot breath! Feel my hot breath!” McKinley decides we haven’t enough honey. He rushed down the steps and comes back with the honey pot tucked in his arm. He’s gleaming.
I know they will want to do this tomorrow, and why shouldn’t they? But I sense that some part of myself will try to push it aside, deem it frivolous in the face of other more important tasks, like sweeping, or hanging up laundry. After all, my daily walk has proven to be the most beneficial of practices and yet I haven’t walked in four days. How I’ve needed it these past two days! But I cluster inside myself, my muscles stiffen, and I find that my boots are held tight by my own relentless muck. But there is, too, the child in me, the girl that delights in the nectar of cloud and the steam of body, the flit of the titmouse and clutter of river rock underfoot. Perhaps tomorrow I will give her what she wants. Perhaps I will love her that way.