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Tea-cluttering: One way to get ‘Happy’

March 3, 2014

I received one of my best Christmas presents ever this past year. I don’t think it was very expensive and it certainly isn’t beautiful to look at, as objects go. It is made of plastic, in fact, a simple organization tool. And in that lies its beauty.

I’m a tea drinker, especially in winter. It’s interesting how my habits are seasonal — I rarely make a cup of tea at night at the beach in summer, for instance. However, in the winter and fall months, I have steaming chamomile or ginger or sometimes a soothing sleep-inducing elixir almost every night. I don’t always drink much of the tea once made — I find the almost-full cup on the family room coffee table the next morning — but the act of making the tea persists and soothes.

Except the beginning of this ritual has always created in me a bit of angst. After putting on the kettle, I open the cabinet and reach up to the second shelf above the cereal (there’s always at least three opened boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats), where all the tea cartons are crammed into two metal bins, some spilling out over the top, others wedged in so I can barely reach them. My caffeine-free nighttime favorites are usually the ones lying on the top, so not hard to access. But each time I pull out the metal container, some boxes fall to the side or on the counter or, occasionally, on my head.

Oh, I’ve tried to organize them — divide them into two groups, herbal and caffeinated, or pack according to size, like jammed-in puzzle pieces. But like that pair of jeans that is just too tight, they never manage to really fit. So when my sister sat in my kitchen and asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I thought, what do I really want?

“I want a tea organizer. I have no idea if they make those. And I don’t want a fancy box like they present to you in restaurants. I want something that can go in this cabinet.”  As if working on the “The Price is Right,” I reached up and pulled out my makeshift system of ill-fitting boxes in too-small bins, gave her a “see what I mean?” look, and she nodded.

“OK, I’ve got it. I’m not saying I can find it, but I’ll try.”

And that was that. I basically forgot about it. I didn’t start looking for the item myself — no googling “tea storage” or asking if she’d found it yet. That would make me seem organized. In fact, I only realize I have the “tea problem” whenever I make tea. Then I make the tea and the problem goes away, and I don’t think about it any more — until the next night, when I make tea again.

So when on Christmas Day I opened what is officially named the “Tea Stand” (I only just now noticed its name etched on the end), I was a little surprised. I surveyed the slim, gray box with two-by-three rows of clear slots on each side and an indented groove at one end to easily grasp the whole miraculous contraption, and a smile spread across my face.

“I can’t believe you found this.” I said, beaming. “It’s perfect.”

Which it really is. A beautiful, plastic house for tea. Or maybe more like a tiny apartment building — one that may as well have been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright I far as I’m concerned. Weeks after receiving it, I felt compelled to gush to my sister:  “I’m so happy every time I make tea.”

Such a small item, such a huge difference. Suddenly, instead of reaching up and wincing when little boxes bounce off my head, I gratefully grasp the grooved plastic handle and pluck a tidy packet from one of the open-topped slots on either side.

Without a modicum of angst, I unwrap the bag, place it in the mug, and put on the kettle. Then I slip the synthetic sculpture back onto the shelf, as if returning a book to its exact spot at the library. A perfect fit, this perfect gift.

What is it about getting “the perfect gift,” I wonder. Of course, it’s pleasing to use or look at or do, depending on what the gift is. But there’s more. It’s affirming. The perfect gift says the giver knows you, and you feel known. In giving to you, they “get” you. That’s a gift that, like a good cup of tea, warms to the core.

Pharrell Williams gets “Happy” – which is how I feel now every time I make tea:

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From → Family, Happiness

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