My dad used to bring my mom tea in bed every morning that I remember.
Hot, sweet tea. Milk and sugar. He brought it in her favorite delicate pink Spode tea cup and saucer. She liked to sleep in. He was always up early. And after he’d spent time in his study with his books and his Bible and on his knees, he’d make her tea and wake her up with it.
I grew up thinking that was normal.
That’s how you loved someone. With hot tea.
It’s still one of my favorite love languages.
After she died I sat at the kitchen table one night with my dad. I was crying. A boy had broken my heart and I didn’t have a mom to stroke my fringe back from my forehead; tell me it was OK to cry.
He kept trying to fix it. Until finally I looked at him and said, “Dad, this is the moment you just listen and make me tea. You don’t tell me how to make it better.”
And so he did.
Peter had never had tea the British way till he came home with me to South Africa.
A plane ticket was all he asked for as a graduation gift. And we sat around the dining room table – my dad and my brothers and the man who would become my husband – and poured tea out of my mom’s Spode teapot.
And I wondered what she would have thought of him.
Her own dad died five years later. And we traveled to Grahamstown for the funeral. I was seven months pregnant with Jackson and my new husband sent me on that winding road of memories and grief and beauty with my father. We flew together to Port Elizabeth and then drove along the coast visiting Uncle Jolyon and Aunt Rose and ending up finally in the pocket of a town that holds a world-class arts university and my mom’s youngest sister.
Her other sister had come across from East London and I was wearing the soft pink sweater stretched over my new son as I sat between them at the dining room table with afternoon sunshine pouring in and showed them Jackson’s 4D sonogram pictures.
Of course there were piping hot cups of comfort in front of us.
Tea and grief.
Tea and joy.
Tea and new babies and old friends and family stretched across miles and years.
Tea spooned thick with sugar and stirred rich with milk and comfort.
Tea and love.
Tea and first kisses.
Tea and tears.
Tea and melktert – the delicious milk-pudding like pie that is always sliced with its cinnamon topping alongside any cup of South African tea.
When Jackson turned 6 we marked the occasion with an adventure walk one December in South Africa.
We’d read about the importance of ritual and ceremony in the lives of boys. So all the men in the family gathered for an afternoon to chisel a memory into Jackson’s sixth year. Growth spurts need to outlive the lines on a door frame; they need to mark themselves on the mind of your boy.
Uncles and his dad and Oupa all came out to teach a lesson, walk a part of the journey, share a piece of his family story, claim him as their own.
What ended at the top of the mountain that my dad’s house is built into trickled down into the living room and around the big, pine table with hot cups of tea and plates of melktert.
All the ladies toasted the boy with sugar and milk and slices of cinnamon flavored love.
I’ve had a thousand, thousand cups of tea.
And as many conversations to go with them.
Tea in Pretorie, Ukraine and Owosso. Tea in Springfield and Johannesburg and Cairo. Tea has been the always familiar in a sea of changing stories and losses and loves.
Tea has rocked me when I’ve been rocked hard.
Tea has spelled comfort and home and the familiar.
It is “I love you” cupped in a cup and it’s still always a gift when someone makes it for me.
I make it now for my own kids. My sons like it like I do. Earl Grey or English Breakfast Tea or South African Rooibos named for the red bush its made from. With Milk. Always. Hot and terribly sweet. Zoe takes hers in a plastic cup that’s almost all milk, but she always takes it.
Tea and melktert is home no matter the zip code or time zone.
It’s the love language of my mother and I’m passing it on to my own tiny people.
The glory of a full cup of sweet love that warms you from the inside up.
It’s been my balm after each of my babies was born – the reminder that while so much has changed – so much that matters will still always, dependably, thankfully, stay the same.
Won’t you join me – in pouring a cup of hot, rich, reassuring encouragement for another mom between now and Mother’s Day?
Host your own Mother’s Day Tea and/or Book Club
Any time between now and Mother’s Day, which is really every day, isn’t it? Why not gather the moms and daughters you love and host a tea celebrating the every day, ordinary, unsung glory of motherhood. We’ve had such fun putting together everything you might need:
- An invitation to your Mother’s Day Tea
- Or if you prefer, an invitation to a Surprised by Motherhood Book Club that culminates in a Mother’s Day Tea!
- The recipe for Melktert – a staple of South African teas
- The recipe for soft, fluffy delicious South African scones
- 8 printable quotes from Surprised by Motherhood
- A bunch of places where you can pick up your copies of Surprised by Motherhood – just click “Order Today”
- And a video reminder to the moms in your life that they are braver than they know, because they mother
- Daily Grace tea set and vase are from (in)courage
Just click here to find and download what works best for you and the women in your community.
Do it with your church or MOPS group or best friend and your daughters. Do it with your grandma and great grandma and aunts and cousins.
Take time to celebrate the ordinary, to glory in the miracle of raising tiny humans.
Take time for tea.