Sitting at my new kitchen table in my first apartment, I didn’t expect to feel sad. Excited and a little lonely, maybe, but not sad. But there I was, 25, with a brand new home filled with furniture and décor I’d hand picked myself, colourful walls I’d painted on weekends with friends and family. It was everything I’d dreamed of, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling of sadness that took over once I finally sat down alone to enjoy it all.
So I did what my mother taught me. I made a pot of tea. My first pot of tea in my brand new pot, poured into my favourite childhood mug, with a box of chocolate cookies my mom had brought over that morning to welcome me to my new home. One sip and I instantly felt better. It’s the first of many lessons I remember from childhood.
Then I sat back and looked around my new home. I’d had paintings my father created framed in colours to match my new futon. I’d found a second-hand dresser in an old thrift shop, and had it stripped and varnished to match my new canvas bed. And my kitchen table was this modern version of my grandparents’ old turn-of-the-century set we used to sit around as kids, drawing and making puzzles and listening to the grown-ups talk. It was warm and comforting and it always felt like home.
The kitchen table was where you could always catch my mother for a chat. Between her work and taking care of us and making meals for the week, she always had time for a cup of tea and a good talk. Maybe I was sad because she wasn’t here with me now, and I had no one to go over my feelings with. But then I remembered her table rules: Nothing you say is bad, nothing you feel is wrong, and everyone at the table has to listen when you speak. This is your place and we are here for each other. No matter what.
So, seeing as I was the only one at the table, I said out loud. I worked to get here. I’ve made it my own. It’s OK to feel sad and to miss my family. It’s perfectly all right to wish my friends were here right now. What I’m feeling is normal and a necessary part of life. And if I feel like this again, I can always put on the kettle and sit here at the table with a pot of tea.
It’s many years later and we’re our own family of four around the table now. Meal ties are hectic and helping with homework at the table can be an exercise in patience sometimes. But if I put the pot on, my family knows they can come to me and say anything they want. Share everything they feel. My mother taught me the value of a warm cup of tea and a listening ear, and it’s a legacy I hope my own children will want to pass along, too.