“Leap’s a funny word, isn’t it, Aunt Sal?”
“Why do you say that?” I ask while brushing the mud off my boots before entering the house. We’ve been out at the barn feeding the horses. Such a mucky day as the seasons transition.
“Well,” Manda pulls off her boots and shoves them in the corner by the door. “It’s such a small word that can mean so many things. And it sounds funny. Leap!” She says it over and over as if to make her point.
I give her shoulder a playful shove as we move from the mud room into the kitchen. Manda flops down in a chair at the wobbly kitchen table while I put the kettle on.
“You really need to get Uncle Bill to fix this,” she says, annoyed that it’s still a topic of conversation after several months.
“Your uncle has other things on his mind … I’ll get around to it in due course,” I respond, my own annoyance bubbling. She’s right, of course, but it’s not a priority. I settle down at the wobbly table and plant a plate of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in the centre of it. We both reach for one. “Tea or chocolate milk?” I ask.
Manda doesn’t answer right away.
“What’s going on in that pretty little head of yours?” I ask, curious.
“Well, I usually have chocolate milk, but I’m wondering if I should try tea instead.”
“Oh,” I exclaim, “you want to take a leap and try something new, then?” Manda rolls her eyes. “What’ll it be?” I ask, “Earl Grey? Lavender? Peppermint?”
“What are you having?” she asks.
I get up from the table and head for the cupboard where the tea caddy is kept. Take it out and return to the table. I place the antique wooden box in front of me and carefully open its fragile lid. It’s really too delicate for everyday use, but if it’s not used it’ll simply gather dust and get forgotten in the interest of preservation. I prefer things to be used up in gainful employment. Then they always have a purpose.
Manda looks on and asks, “Why haven’t I seen this before?”
I smile. “Oh, you’ve seen it. You just haven’t seen it.”
“It’s beautiful!” my 12-year-old old soul exclaims as she examines its intricately carved details. “Where did you get it?”
“It’s been in the family a long time. My grandmother left it to me. She used to love her tea in the afternoon. We’d sit together, much like this, and shoot the breeze.” I sigh. It wasn’t quite like this. There was a lot more tension, but she doesn’t need to know this. “Would you like to see what’s inside while I deal with the boiled kettle?”
Manda nods and I slide the fragile box carefully across the table cloth to where she’s sitting. “Oh look,” she notes, “the packets are all pretty colours! Like jewels!”
I return to the table with my Royal Albert china tea pot and two matching cups and saucers.
“Oooh, those are pretty!” Manda squeals. “I haven’t seen you use them before.”
“Yes, you have, you just haven’t seen them.”
“Why do you keep saying that? What do you mean I haven’t seen them?”
“Your eyes are opening, darling, that’s all.”
Manda looks at me funny.
“A lesson for another day. Now, pick a tea,” I suggest. “Anything you like.”
“But how do I know what they are?” she moans, confused.
“Well, you don’t, and that’s part of the fun. This is a leap of faith moment, albeit a small one.”
“What’s a leap of faith?” she asks.
“I’m so glad you asked,” I respond. “Pick your tea.”
Manda surveys the 12 flavours all stored separately in little compartments, their fragrances commingling to a heady sense of well-being.
“How do I do that … pick a tea?”
“Well,” I lean over and pull my favourite, though I don’t tell her that, from the box. I bring the mauve and sage packet to my nose and take a big sniff. Hmmm … delightful. “Smell this.” I give Manda the packet and she takes a whiff. “No, not a whiff … inhale it’s fragrance.” Manda takes a deeper whiff. I guess that’s as much as she can commit right now.
“Oh, that smells sweet. What is it?” Manda turns over the packet. “Lavender.” She reads aloud. “What does it taste like?”
“Do you want to find out?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Well, smell them all, if you like. Maybe there’s something else you’d like to try.”
Manda scans the box ~ rose hip; Earl Grey; camomile, peppermint, roiboos, et al. She picks up each packet and sniffs it. Her face registers delight or dismay accordingly and she separates them on the table into two piles. This takes several moments.
“Come on,” I chide, “I’m thirsty.”
“These smell nice,” she points to four possibilities in a pile to my right. The lavender we started with, green tea, liquorice and a citrus blend.
“Okay, so which one?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” she moans.
“Okay, so this is where we employ a leap of faith. This is when you take a chance on something not knowing what the end result will be and hope with all your heart it turns out in your favour.”
“It’s make my mind up time,” she states.
“It’s make your mind up time,” I affirm.
Manda eeny-meeny-miney-mos it. The tiger in my tummy is rumbling in time. Finally she lands on liquorice.
“Is that the one?”
“Yes,” she responds with certainty.
“Let’s see then. Open it up and put the tea bag in the pot.”
Manda tears open the packet, takes another whiff of its sweet, exotic aroma and then drops the tea bag into the pot filled with hot water. “I like liquorice,” she declares.
“How long does it take?”
“Is that what they call it?”
“Yes.” I smile. I love these impromptu life lessons, especially when Manda’s of a mind to engage. ” A couple of minutes, that’s all.”
We wait. Manda takes another cookie and puts it on her saucer in anticipation. “Do we need sugar or milk?” she asks, hesitating.
“Not with liquorice,” I smile.
The Victorian Regulator ticks and tocks in the hallway. Abbey, the collie, lies beside her food dish and groans. A nor’easter wails against the windows. More rain to come.
“There. That should do it …” I pick up the tea pot and pour some liquorice nectar into Manda’s cup. “Wait for it to cool just a little,” I warn, “and no dunking.”
Manda nods and waits for me to pour my tea. The tension is surprisingly high for this little leap of faith moment. She sniffs at the steam as it rises from her cup. “Smells good,” she admits.
“Okay, you ready?” I ask after a couple of minutes of thumb twiddling and worried looks.
With utmost care, Manda picks up her cup and draws it to her lips. Takes a sip. “Oooh, hot!” she squeals, but then takes another, this time more prepared. Her eyes get wide as she savours the exotic flavour of anise while it tickles her taste buds.
“How’s that for a leap of faith?” I wink over the rim of my cup while taking a sip.
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©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016