The morning my father died, I drove from Jamestown, NY, to Elmira, NY, as quickly as I could to be with my mother. By the evening, other siblings had arrived and we were eating dinner when I realized that someone had to tell Lottie that Dad had died before it hit the papers. She had cared for him since he was ten. I remember it being around 7 pm when I called Lottie to see if I could drop by. I think she was getting ready for bed but she said to come on over. I drove to her senior housing apartment that was simply adorned with many of the same photos that had been there for decades. Sisters, nieces and nephews and their children, Monroe grandchildren…all tucked under the glass of her coffee table or framed and on the end tables.
By then Lottie was in her mid-90’s and I wasn’t sure how much she was understanding but we sat down after hugging and I told her Dad had died that morning. I remember her saying, as distinctly as I can remember anyone’s voice: “Judge Monroe was a good man.”
We didn’t visit for long and when I got ready to leave she fussed a bit and said that she had something to give me. She rummaged through the drawers of her tiny kitchen and came up with this tea bag holder. She could not, even with age and failing brain, let me leave without taking something with me. Turns out that it was one of a set. I don’t know if she ever had the whole set or if she had given other bits away. But this was a gift beyond measure to me.
“I will hold your tea bag.” Maybe it also meant: “I will hold your grief. I will hold your love. I will hold you.” It’s little handle had broken who knows how many years ago. It was attached by glue. I love that about it. Words are not needed. For 25 years and through 5 moves, I have kept that little porcelain reminder of Lottie’s love for our family and her love for my father. When I ponder what I might take from our house should it ever catch fire, I do not think of things of monetary value. I think of this little tea bag holder and the love it represents.
Every day it sits on our Corning Countersaver where it holds either a tea bag or a tea spoon, as photographed here, as I prepare to drink my morning tea. Lottie is there. The Countersaver is also something Lottie gave me 40 years ago as a wedding shower gift. She was ever the practical woman. There is one more practical gift she one gave me. As I headed off to college in 1974, she gave me a foldable travel iron! And, yes, I still have that as well. I seldom actually used it as an iron because what college kid does? But it was a reminder to keep my clothes clean and neat, in principle if not reality. Now I use that iron to adhere laminate to the edges of plywood for desktops and shelving. I think she would approve of that as well!