My mother-in-law, Marjorie Blumenfeld, was a woman of exquisite taste. Beautiful clothing and hats, the freshest foods in Manhattan, and an exquisitely decorated apartment at 110 Riverside Drive. Blessed with unique physical beauty and a laser-quick sense of humor, Margie was formidable in every way.
Purchasing gifts for her was the most difficult task you can imagine. She not only had everything; everything she had was top-of-the-line and made to last. Perfume? She wore only Joy, sparingly. Gloves? She had several pairs: kid, silk, crochet. Books? She never sat down unless she was at the hairdresser’s. Scarf? The three she owned were absolutely stunning, and if it was a real date, she had the mink stole. Never was there so much kibitzing among the cousins as there was leading up to Margie’s birthday.
“It’s her 60th birthday, you putz! It has to go beyond chocolate.”
“A new golf hat? The one she wears looks like a display at Farmers’ Market.”
“Margie never bogeys in that hat, so fuhgeddaboutit.”
You get the picture.
Uncle Sol arrived at the party with the unthinkable: a porcelain dog. Margie was so thrilled with it that every time she looked at it – a Chihuahua – she would giggle. Immediately, that breakable pup had a pride of place on the mantle. In the years that followed, Margie was to receive at least one porcelain dog for each birthday, anniversary, or Hannukah celebration. By the time she and Syd relocated to their condo in Palm Springs, her porcelain dog collection looked like a museum display for the AKC. At least sixty breeds were represented, each requiring careful dusting. All the big names in porcelain figurines were there, including Dresden, Hutschenreuther, and Hummel.
Although Marjorie has passed on to advising Yahweh on his golf game, and most of the dogs have been given new homes, Margie’s gift experience reminds me of my relationship with tea.
Over the past several years, this blog has chronicled my efforts to persuade teens to drink tea. With the help of T Ching, tens of thousands of cups of fine tea have passed the lips of several hundred teens. Kids love oolong, matcha, genmaicha, black, white, and green teas. The Tuesday Tea ritual in my classroom has achieved a permanence and momentum of its own. When students think of me, they do not recall my fascinating lectures on The Odyssey or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. When kids think of me, they think of sipping tea out of little cups.
So, when kids get me gifts at the winter holiday or at the end of the year, they get tea or accessories. I have a dozen gorgeous tea cups – with matching saucers, of course. I’ve received blooming teas – and a special glass pot to steep them in. When a student travels during the year, he or she buys tea for me: elegant little tins of Scottish Breakfast, Earl Grey, and Orange Spice. Boxes of sachets, everything from Autumn Blend to Christmas Spice to Lemon Ginger tisane. Because they are teens, the more exotic the name sounds, the more likely it is to be purchased. Huckleberry Black, Cinnamon Plum, and Wild Berry Zinger have a place on my ever-expanding tea shelf.
If you want to market tea to teens, you first need to make sure the product names have a lot of bling appeal. (Consider how much money teens spend on products named “Monster,” “Full Throttle,” and “Jolt.”)
These tea purchases are thoughtful gestures on the part of students, and deserve to be accepted with respect. We drink the tea gifts on the very next Tuesday Tea, and the students develop their palates in the process. “I like the plain tea better,” Amos might remark. “Plain tea” is pure, whole leaf.
“But, I kind of like the spicy little aftertaste,” Anna will counter.
The discussions around and about the teas enable students to define and refine their tastes. As the years fly by, I am becoming comfortable with the notion that my mark on the field of education lies not in my stunning lectures about George Orwell (although he was quite the tea buff), but in the Tuesday Tea ritual. If just a few kids become tea drinkers for life, I will have made a difference.
Anybody interested in a lovely five-inch porcelain Corgi?