THE POWER OF A TEA BAG
By Sharon Prater-Pope
Lue sat at her kitchen table having her mid-day cup of tea with a cinnamon roll. Her husband worked away from home so she lived alone most of the time, which was okay, because she was an artist and needed solitude to work. Being an only child in a rural area had taught her to enjoy her own company, and she was very good at entertaining herself when she was not doing house or yard chores.
Today, however, she needed company. She was depressed. Her middle-aged, overweight body with its crazy hormones was making her feel fat, old, and tired.
There was always the phone or e-mail, but she needed more than just a voice, and she didn’t feel like driving anywhere. The only neighbor within walking distance lived across the road, but visiting her, or inviting her over, was out of the question.
Her thoughts floated back to the spring evening two months ago when the truckload of furniture had arrived across the street. It was warm, and she was having her tea on the screened-in porch on the front of her small house. Being Southern country, she had given the truck time to leave, freshened up her pudgy face with its smiling blue eyes, brushed her short, light brown hair, picked up two tea bags, and trotted across the road to introduce herself.
Holding up the tea bags, she knocked on the door and waited in anticipation. The door opened to reveal someone slightly older, the picture of tidiness in a gray housedress that covered her slender frame, her graying hair swept up into a bun on the back of her head. Lue already felt a little intimidated, as she stood waiting in her paint-spattered faded jeans and tee shirt.
“Yes, what is it?” Mrs. Colby snapped. She obviously resented being interrupted.
Managing a smile, Lue stammered, “Hi, I’m your neighbor, Lue, and I thought that you might need a tea break or some help.”
This offer was met with angry, dark brown eyes and the words, “No, I do not need help, nor do I want to have tea with you. I want to be left alone, and I would appreciate it if you didn’t bother me again.” The door was then shut in her face.
Lue went home and cried, feeling totally crushed. Mrs. Colby promptly put up “No Trespassing” signs.
Mrs. Colby lived alone and rarely came out of the house except to check the mailbox. She had hired someone to bring groceries and do chores, and she refused to open the door for anyone else. Lue checked her mail at a different time rather than risk rejection again.
She had recently heard through the grapevine that Mrs. Colby had been widowed shortly before moving, and that she had cut herself off from virtually everyone, including her two married children.
Lue kept feeling worse, until she remembered that the best way to lift your own spirits is to do something for someone else. But what?
Her thoughts were interrupted by the cat meowing outside the kitchen door. As she fed him, he began purring, a far cry from the way the two of them had started out. Inky had appeared in her back yard three years ago, an old, black, stray tomcat with yellow eyes, a notched ear, and a harelip. The slightest movement sent him running, so she left food out and watched from inside the kitchen as he came stealthily across the yard to eat, never once letting his guard down. As she gradually moved the food closer to the back porch, he had begun to trust her enough to let her sit close by and talk to him while he ate. She still couldn’t touch him, and sudden movements still terrified him, but they had come to an understanding. They respected each other’s space, while still enjoying a measure of companionship.
It occurred to her that Mrs. Colby might be like the cat, badly hurt and afraid to trust.
As she finished her tea, she decided to take a walk to cheer herself up, and that’s when the idea came to her. She would start walking daily for her spirit, maybe shed a few pounds, and she would invite Mrs. Colby, indirectly, to accompany her.
She hurriedly wrapped a cinnamon roll and a tea bag, and wrote a note, which said, “I respect your need to be alone and I don’t want to intrude, but I thought you might enjoy this when you take a break. I have also started walking after lunch, and you are welcome to join me anytime.”
She put the snack and the note into Mrs. Colby’s mailbox and went on her walk. She already felt better.
Every day for two weeks Lue walked, always leaving a little snack, a tea bag, and a note of invitation in Mrs. Colby’s box. She made it a point to get there after the mailman but before Mrs. Colby. There had been no response.
“Well,” she thought, as she prepared to walk again, “I’ve tried. Maybe I should just leave her alone.”
As she was tying her shoelaces, there was a knock on the kitchen door. Her jaw dropped as she opened the door to see Mrs. Colby.
A little on guard, Lue said, “Hello, Mrs. Colby, how are you?”
Mrs. Colby tentatively held up two tea bags, and with a trembling smile said,“ I thought we might have a cup of tea when we get back from our walk.”
Lue smiled as she took the tea bags and laid them on the table by the cinnamon rolls.
“Good idea,” she said, as she closed the door behind her.
The “No Trespassing” signs were leaning.
Sharon says: I live in the country, a stone's throw from the TN River, with my husband and our two cats, Simmi Cat-Tina and Loopy Bocephus. I rekindled a passion for writing when I attended college classes for the first time at age 47, and I am a graduate from the Long Ridge Writers Group. I enjoy doing a variety of art and writing forms. Most of my subject matter comes from my life and the goings on with nature in and around my own yard. Photography, reading, and music are other interests that enhance my art and writing. Contact Sharon.