Our grandmother will be 90 next month. Although sharp as a tack, she’s nearly blind, mostly deaf, and her knees don’t work very well after a lifetime of dancing and golfing. She knows what she likes (holding court) and does not like (ambient restaurant noise), so taking her out for Mother’s Day hasn’t worked for a few years. We’d had the family over for pizza a few times, but that just didn’t seem to fit the spirit of the day. What to do?
Tea, of course.
Nana has always been a bit of an anglophile and even has a faint British accent, despite, or perhaps because of, growing up in a Russian immigrant town in northern New Jersey. Born of Lithuanian parents, the fifth of eight children, Nana has an eighth-grade education, but a beautiful and well-modulated voice.
Last year I suggested to my mom and sister that we exclude the guys and kids for the day (more on this later) and that we four ladies have tea at Nana’s house; she could provide the cups and kettle, and we’d provide everything else. No reservations, no crowds, and Nana could hold court to her heart’s content. Mom and sis felt this was a real solution, and fortunately Nana agreed. We set about dividing up the menu and other things to bring and setting a time and date; not as easy as pizza, but we felt we’d be giving her a great day.
The surprise was that we got one, too!
We’d heard a few of her childhood tales, but without the guys around and without the distraction of a televised golf game, Nana told stories that even my mom had never heard. And Mom told childhood tales that we didn’t know about. My sister and I got to bring Nana up-to-date on happenings in our lives that were too difficult to communicate with the rest of the family around. I reminded her that she was the one who awoke my own interest in tea – we had spent the day with her as children and she offered to let us try some of her tea sampler; my favorite was jasmine.
The afternoon was such a hit that we decided to do it again this year. We did not run out of things to say, and Nana had a great time. This year her tea of choice was English Breakfast.
In case you readers feel that we are being sexist, let me assure you that my sister and I have also taken our father out to tea, and he loved it! This year our uncle, who lives with Nana, took the opportunity to spend the afternoon with his friends, and he came back to a happy mom, so it was great for everyone.
This is likely to continue as a tradition for as long as we have Nana. I’m looking forward to next year already!