Recently I was invited to have lunch with four women. All of us were born in different countries. That’s not that unusual, but it was an interesting idea for a gathering. The other thing we had in common was a passing acquaintance with our hostess. She was a tall woman, whose charm made you feel at ease and glad you were invited.
After lunch, we walked to the apartment of one of the guests to see her collection of paintings by modern Chinese artists. As we looked at the canvases she told us stories about the artists and explained a little about their art. We took it all in like willing students, eager to learn what she had to offer.
“Now,” she said, “It’s time for tea. I would like to show you something special and let you experience a little of my home in China.”
She immerged from behind a closed door carrying a tray with a matching tea set that included tea pot and assorted cups and carefully placed it on the table in front of us. The color of the finish was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was a green that was so unusual it reminded me of the newness of foliage when it first breaks ground; strong and fresh, not yet hardened by the elements.
You could feel her excitement as she pointed to the gold image that adorned it. “It’s a sunburst” she clarified. “The tea set was made in a village near my home in China. The color of the lacquer and the design are rare. This is an exceptional example of their craft.”
She poured the tea into the cups and my nostrils filled with the sweet, yet slightly acidic smell, reminiscent of a morning walk in a damp field. “My mother served the same tea to our guests when I was a young girl.” She said, “The smell brings me back to my childhood. Now I serve it because it helps me feel connected to my past and allows me to share my traditions with you.” She paused and then added “I hope it will help you understand me better.” She bowed her head ever so slightly, seemingly embarrassed by her directness.
She continued explaining her traditions, as we sipped the flavorful liquid and I traveled through her memories to what I imagine her home must be like. For that moment I was part of another world.
As we said our good-byes I marveled at how she had kept a piece of her past with her, both for comfort and power. She had taken the time to share a little about what made her unique. I left wondering if that was one of the ingredients that made a party special.
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