Life Through the Fogged Glass of Hobo TeasteemCreated with Sketch.

in life •  4 months ago 

Tadpoles were swimming around in the bowl next to me. The smell of rank pond water was starting to waft in my direction. I decided then might be a good time to move the boy’s pond exploration off the kitchen counter—I had serious work to do.

I slapped a stained, muddled looking journal onto the counter in the bowl’s place. It had been sitting in a drawer somewhere, forgotten for about six years. But time had not caused its dilapidated state. The journal had been my travel companion in the pre-children years, back when I used to trot around the county, and occasionally the world. I needed to dig through it today to find an important tidbit about that one visit that would never be repeated again.

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My uncle passed away recently. There is something about living until the age of 91 that makes the passing less of a sad event, and more of a remembrance event. I needed to find that one page in the journal.

Here we are—2009. Yes, Hobo Tea. In that don’t-care-what-this-look-like version of my handwriting, the basics of the recipe were outlined as my uncle had instructed. I can remember standing in his kitchen on the demure colored linoleum. The tops of the kitchen cabinets were covered in antique collectibles that must have been an enormous effort to dust. He stood at the stove with his oddly shaped fingers—very wide knuckles with pointy fingertips—which looked like a physical representation of his personality. There was nothing typical about this man. He was an absolute character.

I’ll show you how to make Hobo Tea, his voice resounded in my head as I read the first step. Fill medium sized pot with water. Hmm…medium sized. I grabbed a random pot and set it down on the stove, then watched the six tea bags immediately turn the water into a murky shade similar to the pond water, but certainly smelling better.

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I read onward, skimming through the instructions. As far as I could tell it was just a regular recipe for sweet tea, but of course, coming from my uncle it couldn’t be just sweet tea. It was Hobo Tea, because nothing was ever just something to him (unless being just happened to make it outlandish). Unintentionally, he had a way of turning the mundane events of life into tall tales. Life was an eccentric place with those invisible special lenses he wore.

Decaf tea, I read from the side of the box. That’s going to have to do the job. Caffeine and I are not friends. In my head I could almost hear the snort he would have made in response. That ain’t tea, he’d say. I’m sure he’d be right—he must have had good sense about things, or very good luck. He was the sort of person that could get into an infinite amount of scrapes and somehow walk away unscathed.

Boy was he a drinker when he was young, my mom always says. He used to go to those biker bars on the bad side of town. He’d always walk away unscathed, somehow. Everybody knows someone like that—is it pure luck, or Divine Providence?

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Add lemon and three scoops of sugar to the bottom of the pitcher. Hmm…I wonder what he had in mind for a scoop… I decided to go heavy-handed. I’ve never known a southerner to go light-handed with the sugar, and I’m one of them. The dogs barked and I set the scoop down. I gazed at them staring out the front windows, and I thought about the categories we fall into in life.

My uncle was in the wild category. He was one of nine kids, and the only rebellious one. He was a free spirit, and at times a trouble-maker, but his heart was pure. We judge the ones in the wild category harshly sometimes, and forget to weigh their hearts. By the time you are 91, the weight of the heart is all that really matters. Just then I could hear his characteristic devious chuckle in my head. Even in old age it was a clear indication of that wildness. What a shame we can’t make people young again, if even for just one day, and experience the wildness in their prime.

I poured in the brown liquid the color of healthy soil, or the color of an oak tree’s bark after a hard rain. The lemons scurried about as the waterfall of liquid earth came rushing down to them. I stirred swiftly with a wooden spoon, feeling a laziness come over me. It was as though the laziness of a hot summer afternoon had already settled onto me before even touching a glass of the cold tea.

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Shit! The sugar. I’m already not following his directions…I hopped up and poured three scoops of that white good stuff in and watched it mingle. Sugar is always a social butterfly. And then I added the ice to liven up the tea party, and then the stir, stir, stir. Next the slow pour into blue glass, with the soft clink of ice cubes settling into the miniature pond they would be giving themselves up to as soon as I went out onto the hot porch.

I took a tentative sip. I’ve never been a fan of black tea, any way you slice it. Wow, I paused to take another sip. Hobo Tea is delicious. I carried my glass covered in condensation out with me to the porch rocker. My uncle had watched me get married in my backyard from within that old wicker rocker. I rocked back and forth as I took a sip and held it upward. The fogged glass turned the trees and all of my surroundings into a muddled blur of pretty colors.

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May we all learn to turn the mundane into tall tales. I took a sip of the tea in an honorary way. May we all see life through special lenses.

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  ·  4 months ago Reveal Comment

What a lovely tribute to what sounds like a wonderful man! I got a little misty eyed by the end. It it wasn't 64 and drizzling, I would go make Hobo Tea right now. And thanks for the excellent reminder to weigh each other by our hearts.

64? Wow, that is hard to imagine at the moment. Thanks for reading :)

Sorry to hear about your uncle, but seems like he was the kind of person that really lived a full life. I think it's very sweet to hear stories like this, just like you said; mundane but then again, not at all. I'm also graving Hobo Tea now, I think I'll use the recipe when the next hot day comes. Think of the effect your uncle had, from the other side of the world, via a niece, an internet connection bringing two strangers to share bits about their life, to me making Hobo Tea with his recipe.

My uncle would have loved to hear that! He was from a tiny middle of nowhere town. He moved to the city when a young adult, but moved back to the small town when older. Small towns just get into our systems I think. Anyway, not being internet savvy, he would have had a hard time wrapping his head around it :)

I hope you like it. I am drinking some right now after doing a bit of gardening. It is combatting the humidity nicely.

Ah, the classic uncle, one of the true joys of life. So sorry you lost yours, though sounds like he had a marvelous life, and enriched yours in the living of it. Such a wonderful tribute to him, I hope you send copies of this to family members in his honor.
And now I have a recipe to try for the hot summer months. Can you say sitting under a big tree, sipping and doing nothing but nothing at all? Have a nice day.

Sitting under a big tree sipping and doing nothing at all is one of my favorite things to do. Can't say I've had time to do it in a long time though.

Hope you like his tea. I'm going to brew my second batch today. Thanks for reading :)

I love your uncle!! I'm Facebooking-sharing this and tagging my mom, because her Uncle Ralph was so epic. With him it was asparagus, and raisin pie... he died when Mom was only ten, yet I treasure her memories of him as if they were my own. And the sweet lemon tea, your uncle's legacy, is something I must try someday. Thanks for sharing this.

Aw, that's really sweet. Thank you. Asparagus in raisin pie, or he just really happened to like both separately? I am intrigued now ;)

Hobo tea is excellent on a hot summer day. I like to just hold the cold glass in my hand and watch the sunset.

Oh heavens, no, no, raisin pie after the asparagus for dinner...
Your uncle sounds epic. I've read several manuscripts and novels where some minor character stole the limelight and had me smitten, even the guy didn't do a whole lot, and every time, the guy was based on the author's uncle. (Or her dad in one case.) Exploit these uncles in fiction! :)

Raisin pie after asparagus. Now I could enjoy that.

Howdy ginnyannette! Wonderfully and beautifully written. Now I see that your turning mundane things into tall tales are from genes that run in your family! You came by it honestly. lol..and put it to excellent use.

Ha, maybe it does run in the genes. My uncle took it to the next level though. His tales were always very tall :)

But they were highly entertaining I bet!

Sweet !

The story and the tea....

I enjoyed reading this and it sounds like you were doing just the right thing to accompany those fond memories of your Uncle. I bet he was right there, trying to get a sip. :)

He just may have been :)

Thanks for reading.

That's a nice story and a lovely memory.

Thanks for reading it. My uncle was a character worthy of a story.

I expected you to come from a long line of characters! lol

May we always have special lenses @ginnyannette. What a remarkable uncle you had. He was probably watching you and giving your directions as you made the Hobo Tea, I wonder if he was telling you to put in the sugar when it suddenly entered your mind.

That's a lovely idea, I hope that was him giving me the reminder :)

Thanks for reading.

By the time you are 91, the weight of the heart is all that really matters.

By the time you hit over 60 the weight of the heart is all that matters (I'm not sure why I came up with that arbitrary number, but I guess I'm thinking of my Dad who is 72 and not that far from death) - or maybe it's always the weight of the heart that matters. Oh don't get me maudlin, Self. You don't need that right now.

Tea! Hobo tea! Apart from the lashings of sugar, sounds delish on on a hot Florida day. I'd be stupid hippie and use maple syrup or honey and ruin the entire recipe, lol. But I love lemon iced tea - in Asia I drink copious amounts until I acclimatise.

what lovely memories of your uncle you have, and what a great character he seems to be. They don't seem to make them like they used to.

It must be that the weight of the heart is always all that matters, but when we are young there are just so many other distractions. I think 60 is a good number for this sort of measurement. I like to think that by that age I will be embracing that idea fully, and not caught up with the fear of an aging body.

Honey might be quite good in it. I love maple syrup. Well, I just love sugar in all her unrefined exotic clothes :)

No, they really don't seem to make them like they used to.

First, my condolences. Is always a good thing to remember our beloved ones, the things they teach us, their love, it makes the sadness fade away. Enjoy your hobo tea!

Thank you. I think recipes must be one of the best ways to celebrate a life. It is a sensory experience.

  ·  4 months ago (edited)

What a way to remember someone we love. It's like reading one of those chicken soup stories. I love it!

I have a whole pitcher in the fridge, waiting for some more remembrance tomorrow :) Thanks for stopping by.

Sounds like a Tea for the Soul is coming 🍵🍵

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Your uncle sounds like an amazing guy. And what a beautiful way to remember him, you write really well :)

May we all learn to turn the mundane into tall tales.

I love this sentence. Even though it's natural, I'm sorry for your loss <3

Thank you. Real characters are the best sort of people. They have so much charisma, you just can't resist them. I'm working on adopting that tall tale stuff :)

Yeah, that's something all of us should be working on :) It's a really good idea.

My mom read this and likes it!
That is like the HIGHEST TRIBUTE a story can ever get. Never mind @curie (we love you of course and esteem you most highly)--the biggest challenge is to get MY MOTHER to read something. And to LIKE it as well. OMG. You're more likely to get struck by lightning. Here's the proof. I had Facebook shared this post.

"ya, I liked this story since I had a similar uncle with fond memories"

She liked it!

My mom liked it!

Congrautlations, @ginnyannette!!!!!

Ha, I'm honored! It is always a tricky business facing a tough critic :)

I really like her FB name. She sounds like a character.

Ohhhh, that she is. Like most Midwest farmwives who grew up during the Depression.

Interesting. Definitely a character.