On the shelf above my kitchen sink there are many things – plastic cups, an apple slicer/corer, a kitchen scale – that I don’t know where else to put in my kitchen. Next to this everyday objects lies a very little milk pot. It’s made out of thick glass. At some point I will remember to take a picture of it, and some day, when Mike actually transfers the pictures to my computer, I will find it and post it here. Meanwhile you’ll have to imagine it, or remember it. If you ever had tea at my aunt Gladys’ apartment, you might. Because this was the same little milk pot that accompanied thousands (and I’m not exaggerating) of teas throughout the years.
I don’t know where the little milk pot came from – I never thought to ask. Would she had remember if I had? It’s so prosaic, and yet so ever-present. It didn’t match any other pieces of the tea set, and indeed, I can’t remember any of the other pieces of the tea set. And who knows? Perhaps if I hadn’t seen it again, I wouldn’t remember the milk pot either. But now I have it, and it brings me back to those teas that marked my childhood.
I would visit my grandmother and aunt Gladys a couple of times a week while I was going to school. I don’t remember much more about it. Did my visits end when granny died? When I started walking back from school (which I think was in 5th grade)? How often did I see Gladys? Later, when I was 13 and 14, I would spend a little over a year living with her. Oil and water. Teenager and older lady. And yet the memories are so sweet.
But every day, after school, or later, in High School, when I went to school in the mornings, at 4 o’clock, it’d be time for tea. It was usually humble, a pot of tea, toast, butter, jam. Granny, I remember, ate rye bread. I don’t know if she preferred it or did it for her health. Gladys would buy pan lactal, milk bread?, at a bakery in calle 12, not too far away from her house. The bread was nice and fresh, much better than the packaged sliced bread my parents would get. Sometimes there would be other things with tea. Biscuits – easier to make than scones, or “escones” as we called them. Cookies, but Argentine cookies are never as good as American. On very special occasions, masas finas – tiny pastries, often filled with dulce de leche, that are some of the best tasting things in the world, unfortunately, they are very expensive. But always tea, black tea with a dash of green tea (that was their secret). So delicious, so comforting, so much a part of my childhood.
Sometimes I don’t know whether it’s better to remember, feel the warmth and love of those moments, that life, but sense the agony of having lost it – or to just forget, as I did for so many years. At some point I did stop mourning my grandmother – will I do the same with Gladys? Do I want to?
My childhood will never come back, I should concentrate in enjoying my children’ childhood. And yet, as I mourn Gladys I can’t but mourn my childhood. Thus these memories and this posting.