Friday, March 5, 2021

SOL21 Slice 5: Distilling advice


I am participating in the
All participants are sharing stories about moments in their lives, writing 
 every day for the month of March 2021.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!

My two-year-old granddaughter ("Frog") was fascinated that I was making a new cup of tea for myself and pouring out the old, because the tea bag had broken. 

"Show me the cup broke," she said. 

I chuckled, "It's not the cup that broke, it's the tea bag." 

"Show me broke."

"Yes, yes, of course," I said, and I showed her the remnants of my drink, pointing out the tea leaves that were swirling in the cup. I absolutely adore preschoolers' curiosity and questions, I love their 'whys,' I love how there is nothing too small to learn more about. I'm always game to explore alongside. 

I continued, "Do you see those little bits in the tea, floating and swirling? Those are the tea leaves. I don't like to drink the leaves, I like to drink just the liquid. The tea bag is supposed to stayed closed, keeping the tea leaves within, while the tea is . . . while the tea is . . . while the tea is . . ." 

I just kept stammering. Frog looked at me with expectancy. She was sure I had more to say. 

I was sure I had more to say, I just couldn't quite get my brain around it. 

I got out the scissors and cut open the old tea bag, to show her its insides, pouring more water over it. We watched the tea leaves float all about. (Frog was delighted by this, and I made a mental note to put my tea bags up on a higher shelf and make sure the scissors are not accessible.) I explained the process again, explaining how the tea bag had broken open, and, for a second time, I was slammed back into my mental jam, trying to continue, 

"...straining, while the tea is straining"

Frog watched the swirling tea leaves in the cup and echoed, as if imbibing my wisdom, "straining"

"Well, no, that's not the word really, it's like filtering"

Frog looked at me, and questioned-echoed "filtering?"  
Oh my, two-year-old parroting is illuminating!! That's not the dang word.

I tried again, "Well, distilling..."

When she echoed "distilling," I realized I had to stop talking. I just smiled at her, weakly. This mini-lesson was going down the drain. Yikes. Maybe she wouldn't tell her folks we were distilling today. 

Word salad.
Word scramble.
Word scurry. 

Frog went back to playing at the sink of faux-dirty dishes and bubbles. There I stood, perfectly still, stuck, holding an empty mug with remnants of tea leaves, thinking through various synonyms, no longer saying them out loud, walking myself through the process of making tea, searching for the illusive word,

like with coffee grounds
this is tea leaves

It wasn't as easy for me to move on. I simply could not find the word. Wait, how is tea made? What is the word for making tea? I couldn't speak, the word or words escaped me, my tongue was tied. 

pour off
pour away
let sit for awhile

Goodness! It was like I was playing charades with myself.  

This situation was the inverse of one of my regular writing problems, where I find the ordinary word and cannot think of any better words. I've turned into a very contrary thesaurus, one with giant, gaping holes. Can you imagine if I were teaching this right now (wait, why would I be teaching about tea?) . . . imagine, if I were being observed, what the heck would the assessor think of me? 

Got nothing.
So frustrating!!

Later, I shared the story of Frog and "the cup broke" with my husband, asking "What's the word for making tea?"

He looked at me, incredulous - "What? Are you talking about brewing? steeping?" 

Oh, I was so excited to hear this! "Yes! Yes! I am! Oh, thank you! Both of those words are AWESOME. That was driving me nuts."

He laughed, and added - "Welcome to old age! It has a way of sneaking up on you."

Oh, geez.

Unexpectedly, I have continued a theme from yesterday - fearful signs of aging! Ha! It was never my intention for this to be the focus of my blogging this month, but when a parallel weird experience happens, how can I not write into it? Clearly, these are slices of my life this March! 

A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.
- Eleanor Roosevelt


  1. Ah, this is a delightful story. To my shock the word “steeping” popped into my head. I don’t drink hot tea often, but we attended a tea ceremony in China so the word must have cemented in my brain then. Anyway, I can’t wait to hear the story coming when Frog wants to distill something. I wonder how she’ll translate the conversation to her parents. And young people forget words, too. We have more words to remember and forget than they do.

    1. Yes, I often try to follow up with my son/daughter-in-law about the visits, "Did she tell you about...?" I figured I'd play 'wait and see' with this one...

  2. Maureen, I love this theme! I'm in the club, too. I love all the synonyms and alternatives you came up with as you tried to remember steeping. Reverse thesaurus, indeed. That takes an agile mind, so you are still in the young club.

    1. Thank you, Denise! That's a positive, supportive spin for me - 'an agile mind' - thanks!

  3. First, I love that the nickname for your granddaughter is Frog! I like how you compared the feeling of not being able to find the right word to playing charades with yourself. I could feel your frustration! Great story!

    1. Thanks! Yes, we've tried to keep the grandkids a little more anonymous, so the nicknames help with this....