I arrived at a snug cottage in a London suburb, and my host mother greeted me across her white picket fence, “A cup of tea after your journey, Luv?” I was eighteen years old and in Britain for a photography tour organized by Ventura Community College. We learned about photography back home in California, took photos in Europe, and then developed our pictures in the darkroom at the college.
… and we drank a lot of tea – tea in the morning when we woke up, tea before we headed off to take pictures, tea with lunch, tea when we got home for the day, and tea in the evening before we turned in for the night.
As I learned quickly, my host mother’s question “some tea, Luv?” also meant, “would you like to sit and chat for a bit?”
Talking through my impression with my host mother over a cup of tea helped me to assimilate what I had learned. She explained what I had found to be new or strange in London. The ritual itself, the day punctuated by moments of pause and connection, was different than American hustle bustle. Sometimes I was impatient with the sitting and chatting, but I grew to appreciate it, and especially the way that she welcomed me into her home and wanted me to have a good experience in London.
Although I did not bring the teatime custom with me back to the US, I still think about my host mother Maggie when I read books and snuggle with my sons, when my husband makes one of his delicious café lattes and we talk over our day, or when I sit on our lawn with neighbors and watch neighborhood kids ride bikes. I remember that moments of connection with other people make up the stuff of life, and I think back to my experiences in London — the teatime and cozy conversation.