Monday July 9, 2007 | 3 comments
“I never was impressed by tea snobs,” the tiny eighty-eight year old woman warned as she eyed me sharply through the sliding glass patio door, “You know I tended bar in Portland for forty years. Started in 1942. Been here since 1992,” she beckoned me in to her tiny and tidy mobile home. ‘Here’ was an RV park on the coast.
For the third summer in five years, my husband and I have packed up the RV and the dog for six weeks on the coast. We’ve found a quiet, private, and clean RV park just 200 yards from the Pacific Ocean, in the perfect small town, with miles of sandy beach to walk, all at an affordable rate. The fresh fish is fabulous, too.
There I was, on the porch of our diminutive neighbor. In my left hand was the teapot; and in my right were two cups and a large tablespoon of Frozen Peaks Oolong. I was paying a courtesy call. You see, when we parked our RV next to Miss Jewel’s more permanent structure, her ornamental red maple sustained permanent damage. What happened to her row of Sweet William is unspeakable. We are thankful that the two gnomes and the giant ceramic frog were unscathed. “I’m not much of a tea snob,” I assured her, “But I am sorry about your flowers and the tree.”
She waved me off, and poured bottled water into a kettle, setting it to boil on her propane stove. I knew, despite my professed lack of snob credentials, that this attention to the water was a good sign. (One downside to this ideal beach community is that the tap water tastes like pine beetles and smells like Simple Green.) While the kettle heated, she looked me right in the eye and said, “Your husband couldn’t park that thing when you were here five years ago!” I agreed. “He couldn’t park it year before last, either.” I said she was right. “And this year . . . ” she let that trail off for a long ten seconds, “When are YOU gonna learn how to park it?” Her green eyes bored into mine.
“I think I’d rather do what you have done, Miss Jewel, park the darned thing forever!” I smiled weakly.
“Not quite forever. Since 1992.”
The kettle was making that anxious sound, just this side of wailing, that means the water is perfect for Oolong. While the tea brewed, she told me about tending bar during three wars, her husband’s military career, her children and grandchildren. In no time, the teapot was empty, and she heated water again. She acknowledged the purpose of my visit:
“The maple will be fine, you did some early pruning. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sweet William came back up, too. Stuff grows almost wild around here. Hard to kill it.” She paused a moment. “At least you don’t have a cat.” We drank the second pot of tea as she told me about the windstorm last November and her – extensive, it turns out – collection of ceramic garden figurines. I was grateful for the (not) cat. As I gathered my tea set to leave, Miss Jewel allowed, “that is nice tea. I wouldn’t mind doing that again.”
I wanted to tease her about turning into a tea snob, but I’ll wait until next week, after I have purchased half a dozen Sweet William.