Monday, December 12, 2011

Afternoon Tea with Aunt Maude

Samson Street in Upper Darby, PA in the mid-1970s
As the weather has begun to turn cooler, I have been making a cup of tea to enjoy in the afternoon at work. With the brewed aroma of Bigelow’s Constant Comment® orange peel and spices filling the air, my Great-Aunt Maude joins me in spirit. I have such a strong mental connection of this tea with her, most likely from early autumn days spent with her in her kitchen, while this tea brewed in white china cups. 

During my pre-dawn runs or early morning bike commutes to work, I have an eye that tears and waters from the breeze. I quietly say out loud, “Good morning Aunt Maude.” In my earliest memories of her, she always had a tissue tucked in a sweather pocket or up in the cuff of her blouse to dry her eyes that watered in the same manner. A gentle grounding presence for me, she has become a pause and a time of reflection during many of my afternoons.

There are many senses that I associate with quiet soul. The smell of a large hot soft pretzel with yellow mustard instantly takes me to center-city Philadelphia shopping with her. Other memories of our times together include:
—Buying warm cashews at G.C. Murphy’s
—Watching TV cooking shows, especially the Galloping Gourmet, and her love of cookbooks
—Walking her cat Princess on a leash in cool foggy mornings through the alleys of Upper Darby
—Her ability to butter toast without crushing the bread
—Listening to KYW news radio together in her breakfast nook
—Puppets, especially a very well-loved rabbit, skunk, and Kermit the Frog 
—Walking hand-in-hand to a nearby golf course to collect stray balls along the edge of the course
—The train and commuter stations in and around Philadelphia that we traveled through
—Shopping at the farmers, fish, and produce market and the lasting sights and smells these imprinted in me
—Her love of reading books and the daily newspaper
—Taking time to visit both large and small museums
—Exposing me to the many cultures throughout the city
—Her winding laundry shoot that dropped from the second floor to the basement
—And lastly, her appreciation of the arts

On a limited income, she made her home accessible and worldly to a small town boy who was lost in so many ways. I am glad that she still takes the time to join me now, even after all these years.

Valley View, PA in the late 1980s