Tea and nostalgia

A very good friend of mine who’s a Tennessee native introduced me to a beverage from her childhood a while back. Karen’s parents and grandparents used to mix Kool-Aid and sweet tea for them, in a half-and-half ratio. It’s really refreshing, without the overwhelming sweetness of straight Kool-Aid, perfect for my palate, which is stalled at the chronological age of 12 years.

However, up until a week ago, I always mixed Kool-Aid and UNsweetened tea–if I’m drinking iced tea, that’s all I want in it is tea. But last week I was trying to use up the remaining half-gallon bottle of ReaLemon juice before the expiration date (darn you, Sam’s Club), and I put some into my unsweet tea. Actually, I put quite a lot in there, to the point where it was quite puckery. I had to sweeten the tea with Splenda to make it drinkable.

When I took a sip of that very sweet, very lemony tea, I shot backward in time to my childhood, when my father and I would make ourselves glasses of Lipton Instant Iced Tea with Lemon. We’d put way too many spoonfuls of that instant tea into the glass, and stirred and stirred forever until it finally dissolved into a muddy-looking slurry of tea, sugar and lemon. We’d sit in the side yard under the big elm tree, in aluminum lawn chairs laced with nylon strapping that my father re-wove every few years, and I’d run in every so often to make us a refill.

I have such vivid memories of sitting under that big elm tree with my father, post-rose-bush-pruning or post-cedar-hedge trimming, relaxing and enjoying our tea after some hard work. After working so hard in the hot summer sun it was almost too cool in the shade of the elm, but we’d sit there anyway, with our muscles pleasantly limp from exertion, sweat and sap drying the backs of our necks into goose pimples in the brisk breeze off Lake Huron. We’d drink our tea and smack our lips in complicit companionship, savoring that sweet-puckery flavor, and then letting the ice cubes dilute the last few drops to a more civilised ratio. My father wasn’t a tremendously demonstrative man (in fact, for a long time I thought he only had two emotions: Laughter and anger), but especially at times like these, I knew he loved us tremendously.

Today, I sip my sweet-puckery tea, and suddenly I miss my father just as much now as when he died in 1984.

Comments are closed.