I add two teaspoons of sugar and ‘just a drip’ of milk. That is the way she has always liked it, with ‘just a drip.’
Every cup of tea I have made her for over forty years has had just a drip of milk.
Back when I thought it was worthwhile to argue about that sort of thing, I used to insist that she couldn’t possible taste a drip of milk. I told her about chemistry, and about proportions, all of the kinds of nonsense a know-it-all kid who turns into a know-it-all adult likes to go on about.
I didn’t know then about the power of the ritual, about how all the parts matter, even if they don’t make much sense.
I put the tea on the wooden tray, the one with the peonies painted on it. ‘All the way from France’ she used to say, even though ‘Made in China’ was stamped on the bottom.
I used to argue about that, too.
Now, I just put the two cups of tea on the tray with the napkins I embroidered in home economics class. I thought they were useless, then, but now I know better.
I carry the tray up the stairs to her room. The sun is across her bed. Her hair a halo on the pillow.
I moved the chair next to her night stand weeks ago, it’s not like it will be in her way.
The tea tray goes on the dresser.
Her tea goes on the night stand to grow cold, the cheerful napkin will be folded perfectly until I take it back downstairs.
My mug is in my right hand, my left hand curls around her fingers where they rest on the quilt.
After all this time, my tears are always silent.
I drink them with my tea.
© Christine Hennebury, 2018