For some time, we have collected "tea stories" told to us by lovely people we have met through the years. Below is the first on we ever recorded as told to us by sweet Dolores.
“He came to the wrong house,” she laughed with a twinkle in her eyes as she told me the story … again. Dolores, a forgetful sweetheart, now widowed and living in a nursing home, has a favorite tale to tell anyone who’ll pause a moment and listen. Perpetually recalling that beautiful moment some 70 years ago when she met her true love in New Orleans during the Second World War, she begins, “His ship was only in port for six hours and he was to meet up with a girl he’d met the month before. He had a first name and a street name but the streets of New Orleans are so twisted, he got turned around. He asked my neighbor where “Dolores” lived and was directed to my house.
My mother told him I was at work but due home soon and invited him in to wait. She fixed him a pot of tea and a sandwich, sailors were always hungry in those days, and he visited with my family while waiting for me. He told them all about meeting "Dolores" the month before at the USO club and how he’d been looking forward to seeing "Dolores" again.
My parents smiled and nodded but my sister thought something was fishy because she knew I had not been to the USO the month before and went to get my graduation portrait to show this Navy man. He fell dumb when he looked at it. It was a picture of me, but I was the wrong Dolores. I walked in the door at just about that moment and came over to meet our guest. He said, 'Dolores?' 'Yes,' I smiled back. After a few minutes of awkward stuttering we learned he was looking for a girl named Dolores who lived on the other end of our street! We all had a good laugh and since he was cute, a real charmer, I offered to make him another pot of tea (and more sandwiches) and we had a grand conversation which led him to ask me out for a coke before his ship set sail.
While we were walking back to my house we decided to write letters and I gave him my last name and address printed very clearly so his letters would not get lost, like he had. Six months later he got a weekend pass and we got married. I guess the wrong Dolores turned out to be the right Dolores after all!”
At times, fact can be stranger than fiction and this story is case in point. Following a tea history presentation, an older gentleman approached me with humor in his eyes. He wanted to share a memory of his uncle, Sergeant Powers, a World War II soldier attached to a British Supply Unit in the days and weeks following D-Day. Their orders were to resupply troops along the North Sea Coast toward Rhine and, while they were not a combat unit, they got awfully close to the fighting and often had enemy aircraft overhead. His uncle was a young man at the time, a strapping American GI of 21 who did not have much in common with his British counterparts but still, they worked together to get the job done.
At one moment each day the cultural clash reached its apex — 5pm, teatime to the British, even the British delivering supplies to Allied troops! Yes, the entire convoy of trucks pulled off the road at 5pm. One man would go find water, another would set up the cookstove on rocks, or logs, anything available, as a third man, filled the stove with fuel from a geri can. In about 15 minutes all the Brits were standing around opening up field rations and pulling out packets of tea, sugar, and powdered milk. The cook went around filling tin cups with boiling water as the Americans looked on in frustration.
“We could not believe it and still don’t understand how they could sip tea with planes overhead and gunfire not too far away. It seemed, incomprehensible, frivolous, dangerous! But they could not be rushed. Cigarettes were in our field rations so we smoked them and waited for tea time to pass.” Sergeant Powers said during his attachment to the British unit, they never skipped a tea time.
“I have three teacups,” a friend told me after church today, “and each one has a story.” Yes, I’m sure they do, I thought and I asked her to share them with me. Seems that’s often the way it is with tea things, they have stories infused into them much like the delicate teas they hold, and those stories grow dearer with each passing year.
Tea has been called the cup of humanity and with good reason. It brings people together, it warms you inside and out, lifts spirits, cures what ails you and plenty more besides. Tea is good company when you find yourself alone yet it is the perfect beverage to serve to a crowd. You just cannot go wrong when you decide to put the kettle on.
So why such veneration for tea? Well, I think it goes back to my friend’s comment. It’s the stories connected to the cups. When pulling out the delicate white and gold fleur-de-lis teacup Daddy gave to Mum as an anniversary gift over 40 years ago, I think of them both. He is gone now but handling that cup brings him to mind and into my heart.
I smile as I choose a white porcelain cup hand-painted with vibrant blue morning glories that my husband brought back from an over seas deployment when we were first married. Those separations were lonesome times for me and that cup holds those bittersweet yet beautiful memories.
My hand is extremely gentle as I reach for the seemingly eggshell thin lusterware cup in muted shades of steely blue, white and grey which beautiful Barefoot Girl gave me as a birthday gift last year. I use that one a lot, despite its fragility, because I love it and I love her and it feels so good in the palm of my hand.
Yes, I too can say, I have three teacups and each one has a story. As your eye rests on a tea item in your china cabinet, what story does it have to share? Put the kettle on and tell me all about it!
For over 20 years our family was moved by the military about every two years and soon after setting up a new home, my husband would be deployed and my search for fellowship would begin. It can be hard to make friends in small towns and in big cities and I did feel lonesome quite often.
One day, while browsing in a Christian bookstore, I caught sight of a book simply titled, “Tea Leaves.” Since I loved tea, I bought it on the spot. Later I discovered it was a devotional written by several missionary wives stationed around the world. They’d “meet” each morning over a cup of tea and the radio waves for a few moments of conversation. Each page told the story of one woman, her unique situation and how God faithfully met all her needs.
As I read the stories laced with verses - beautiful verses of hope and promise like,
“God has said, I will never leave you, never will I forsake you.”Hebrews 13:5 and “You will call and the Lord will answer, you will cry for help and He will say, Here am I.” Isaiah 58:9 and “Find rest, o my soul, in God alone. My hope comes from Him.”Psalm 62:5. I realized many of these ladies were lonely, just like me and craved fellowship, just like me only instead of joining a health club or the neighborhood game night, they found Perfect Fellowship in their relationship with Jesus Christ. I stopped looking for like-minded women to socialize with and instead sought to walk humbly with my God each day.
Fast forward 20+ years. My husband is now retired from the military and we have lived in the same small southern town for 8 years now. Fellowship can still be hard to come by. About 4 years ago, my daughters and I opened a small tearoom on our property and began to host tea gatherings. I am in awe of how lonely people can really be! Only the Lord could bring one beautiful soul after another to our tea table. Time and again customers become friends and then beloved sisters. We may not see each other often but we are in fellowship because of our faith in Jesus. A small prayer journal was placed on the shelf in the rest room and it is an honor to pray for the ladies as they have requested.
Yes, fellowship can be elusive but remember the Lord is standing by your side strengthening you. (2 Timothy 4:17) Ponder that promise over your teacup and be blessed.