Stephen’s stories about his maternal grandmother, Mama Lee, are some of my favorites. He still follows her method for making the southern staple, sweet tea, and I’ve started to catch on. (Though my pitcher in the fridge is decidedly less sweet.)
Mama Lee’s Sweet Tea
(makes 1 gallon)
Four Tetley (it has to be Tetley) Family Size tea bags
Scant 1 cup of sugar*
Pinch of baking soda
In a medium sauce pot, place the tea bags into four cups of cold water.
Bring to a boil (yep, with the tea bags in the water) and take off the heat once it reaches a boil**.
Steep for fifteen minutes and remove tea bags.
Put sugar and baking soda in a heat safe gallon pitcher and pour tea mixture over.
Stir to combine.
Add cold water to the top of pitcher.
Allow tea to sit on the counter until room temperature then put in the refrigerator.***
Sip out on the front porch. (Or chug. We’re not going to judge.)
*I use a heaping quarter cup in my version and only make a half gallon at a time.
**It charms me to no end that Stephen says “boil” like “bowl.” (So what do you put your cereal in? “A bowl.” What do you do to pasta water? “You bowl it…BOY-AL. It’s too short of a word to have two syllables.”) So go on and bowl your water now.
***Or in the words of Mama Lee “boy don’t you mess up my sweet tea and put it in the refrigerator too early!” (Apparently it makes it cloudy.)
It was a cool Oregon morning when we left Portland in early October. We stopped for donuts, picked up Fisher and headed east on I-84 to Idaho. Boise was the first stop on our seven day road trip, each day bringing us a little closer toward my new home.
We developed a rhythm. Wake up, load up, coffee up, gas up. The car was full of things I knew we probably wouldn’t need, but brought anyway–a fire extinguisher, snow chains and far more inappropriate items my friends had tucked in going away bags. We’d smile at each other, kiss, take a deep breath and hop on the interstate. 80 miles per hour seemed slow in some states and the cruise control would get pushed higher. 2,800 miles weren’t going to drive themselves.
I remember how empty the country seemed. For our first few days the only company we kept was horizon. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of clouds. Eric Clapton sang Lonely Stranger over the Bluetooth. We ate lunches I deemed “car picnics” because it sounded cuter than what it was, eating fast food in parking lots. I’d look over at Stephen frequently. We’d laugh while listening to a fifth grade class on YouTube helping us memorize the presidents. (Waaaaashington, Aaaaadams, Jeffersoooon, Maaaadison, MONroe…) Fisher didn’t like laying down in the back seat and slept standing up, her little face ever present between our shoulders. Each night, in new to us neighborhoods, we’d find our Air B&B’s with just enough energy to unload, strike out for dinner and curl up to chat before falling asleep.
Boise. Salt Lake. Ft. Collins. Lincoln. St. Louis (via Kansas City for some barbecue). Nashville. And finally home. Georgia.
After the moving truck dropped off my things and our Target runs had slowed back down to weekly instead of daily, a friend asked if there was anything about the move I wasn’t expecting. Sitting here on this early summer afternoon with an iced coffee and the sound of Fisher padding around on the hardwood floors, I realize it’s a feeling of peace. There are still moments when I feel like a fish out of water, but those are far outweighed by all of the moments when I choose to live my life in a way that is meaningful to me. This has brought a sense of calm I don’t know that I’ve ever felt before.
I no longer wake to the sound of an alarm. I pad around the quiet house before the sun comes up. Turn off the porch lights. Open the curtains. Feed the dog. Steam the milk. Pour the espresso. Finally I sit. Open the laptop. And begin to find my new rhythm.