My mother's healing ritual of tea

My mother immigrated to the United States from England by way of Greece just a few years before I was born. My British heritage meant my childhood was steeped in tea with a splash of milk and a generous amount of sugar. Sick, lonely, ordinary, celebratory and tearful days all called for a cup.

This custom lent a stabilizing habit that followed me into motherhood. A few weeks after the birth of my first child, I called the doctor in a fit of new mother nerves, explaining in a quavering voice that everything was going wrong and that I wasn't sure what to do.

"Oh honey," soothed the nurse who gently fielded my call. "All new mothers feel this way. Go make yourself a cup of chamomile tea and lie down."

Her words delivered an immediate balm to my frazzled state. I'm sure it helped to know I wasn't alone in feeling out of my depth, but she'd also prescribed a familiar elixir. Of course tea was the answer. It is a string of my mother's love that is woven into my very being, a tether on which to grab.

Thirteen years of mothering and countless cups later, I've gleaned fresh insight into my mother's ritual. I recognize it busied her hands and steadied her resolve to give me a tangible reflection of her love in moments when there was little else to offer. It is the thing she did when she knew not what to do.

I find myself regularly arriving at this parenting dilemma. Life's everyday upheavals leave me grappling for the next step forward, searching for words I don't have. Despite my best efforts, I'm not capable of shielding my kids from all of life's hurts, disappointments and horrific headlines.

As world events trespass into our lives alongside tender moments of adolescence, I'm pushed repeatedly into conversations with my children that break my heart and chip away at their innocence.

Typically, I don't have the answers in these conversations. I don't have the solutions. When asked how to promote peace in the world, it was Mother Theresa who answered simply, "Go home and love your family."

And so I give what I have at my limited disposal, ancillary rituals that transform into grounding agents of love and healing. Cups of tea, bedtime stories, songs turned up loud in the car, Sunday mornings at church, movie nights with takeout, summers at the lake, shared prayers for wisdom and courage, dinners around the table.

This doesn't always look pretty. I blunder at least as often as I bless. But I hope like my own mother, amidst life's messy moments I'm weaving something lasting into their lives, a thread of love that will unfurl over time into a humble tapestry of peace.

- Jade Cook of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at news@thehinsdalean.