Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The Traveling Christmas Teapot & Friendship Shared
Mrs. Lindstrom sighed as she looked out her window to see the maintenance man stringing Christmas lights along the Park Manor eaves. The lights signaled the beginning of the holiday season, but since her husband passed away three years before, the holiday had never been quite the same. Unable to live alone, she had agreed to be moved to the nursing home in her community, but it seemed lonely there, especially during the holidays. Her son and his family wrote her letters frequently, but there were far away in Africa where they were missionaries.
Mrs. Lindstrom longed for a homey Christmas and the warm touch of a loved one. She knew she should not grumble, as the nursing staff was kind and gentle, but they were not a connection to her past. The past, when she had created and hosted fabulous Christmas parties for her husband's employees, or conducted caroling sing-a-longs with people from church. Her sigh served as a reflection of her lonely soul and the loneliness seemed to keen during the holidays.
The Christmas lights gave way to paper snowflakes on the lobby windows and a giant twinkling tree in the foyer. School children came caroling through the halls on Mondays, and on Tuesdays the "Healing Through Pets" lady came with puppies that were all dressed up in bright red bows. Wednesdays meant there would be turkey and gravy for lunch, and Thursdays were the day the community players came to read poetry to those who lived there. Fridays were a deeper cleaning day and when it was done the CNA's would add a new wreath or garland or twinkling lights to the room of each resident. On Saturdays most of the staff, except for the essential, went home to be with their families, except for a church group who came for singing bands. It was a lonely day. Sunday mornings Pastor John came to conduct church services and the staff served pie for dessert at lunch. And so the cycle of events continued, only to repeat themselves the following week. But for Mrs. Lindstrom, her longing for a warm smile and gentle touch from her past only accentuated her feelings.
As Christmas drew near, Mrs. Lindstrom grew more and more despondent. She had mailed a Christmas card to her son and his family, and had sent her end-of-year donation to her favorite charity. How she longed for the loving touch of an old friend. A week before Christmas fluffy white snow arrived. Mrs. Lindstrom could smell its freshness as it filtered in through the crack or her open bedroom window. She enjoyed the crystals that appeared on the pine branches as the snow piled up on them and she remembered how she used to make snow ice cream for her children when they were tiny tots. Eventually she touched the damp, cold window pane. A chill seemed to pervade the corners of her space and make her bones ache. The chill matched the loneliness she felt in her heart.
Two days before Christmas she heard the jingle of bells and a soft knock at her door. Without looking up she said "come in". Her door quietly opened and she looked up to see Hattie Brown, her neighbor from days gone by. Her radiant smile filled the room and she scurried over to give Mrs. Lindstrom a gentle hug.
"I'm so glad to see you, dear," exclaimed Mrs. Hattie Brown.
"And how wonderful to see you too," replied Mrs. Lindstrom.
With that, the two friends from the past started to chat and share.
Soon Mrs. Lindstrom noticed that Hattie was carrying an old-fashioned wicker basket. She remembered it as the one that Hattie had brought along for picnic lunches at the beach when their children were small. It was decorated with a bright red bow and a silver bell that jingled every time the basket moved.
"I brought a spot of tea. Would you like some, dear?" asked Hattie Brown.
"Oh yes," replied Mrs. Lindstrom, "it would be like old times."
Hattie Brown cleared a magazine off the small table by Mrs. Lindstrom's chair and swished open a small Christmas tablecloth, placing it upon the tiny table. Instantly the colors of Christmas filled the room! Then she started unpacking tea-time treats and accoutrement from her basket. A cheerful red teapot, two porcelain teacups and saucers in a Christmas Royal Albert design, a crystal lidded sugar bowl, a tiny silver pitcher, old and tarnished teaspoons, colorful napkins, and a tin of Christmas cookies were quickly arranged. With practiced ease, Mrs. Brown opened a thermos of hot water and poured it over black leaves that floated to the surface of the pot. After steeping the tea for three minutes while they chatted, Hattie Brown skillfully decanted the tea through a tiny sieve. A half-pint carton of milk was opened and poured into the silver pitcher. Then she un-lidded the crystal sugar bowl to reveal rich, amber cubes of brown sugar crystals.
"Milk and sugar? One lump or two?" asked Hattie Brown.
Mrs. Lindstrom knew that Hattie Brown didn't even need to ask. After years of having tea together, Hattie Brown already knew that she like a small splash of milk and only one lump of sugar. But, it was polite and gracious to ask.
Hattie Brown passed a steaming cup of tea to Mrs. Lindstrom and then poured one for herself. The cookie tin was open and set between them. Together they passed an hour, visiting, sipping tea, and taking dainty bites of cookies. It was just like it had been in days gone by. For a few minutes, Mrs. Lindstrom was carried back in time and she enjoyed the memories they shared.
All too soon the tea party came to its natural end. Hattie Brown drew a simple envelope out of the basket lining as they were finished and gave it to Mrs. Lindstrom. It contained a Christmas poem in Hattie Brown's own handwriting and a beautiful lace hankie.
Hugs were shared, and a tear by each of them, as they said good-bye and wished one another a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! The traveling Christmas teapot was carefully packed back into the wicker basket, its service done. Together, the teapot and Hattie Brown had shared the true meaning of Christ's gift --- LOVE --- with another on a December day.