It smells like a cup of London Fog in my daughter’s home. Orange bergamot and vanilla-kissed black tea leaves. She carries the aroma wherever with her because it pervades everything, including her clothing. She enthusiastically says that it’s her favorite tea when people inquire. My husband and I make fun of the idea that she has been sent to the world’s coffee consumers to promote her doctrines. She’s already experienced some conversions that were a success.
As the tea leaves steep, I watch as she spoons sugar into a porcelain teapot. The body is covered in vivid purple violets, and a delicate vine winds itself around the elaborate handle.
She tells me, “You’re going to like this.”
At the kitchen table, I wait patiently. She had been pleading with me to make her a cup of tea for some time. I’m not sure why I held off for so long. She walks over to the window’s built-in shelf and pinches the rims of two saucers while delicately balancing the cups on top. The cups are not a set. She has gathered each one of these unique treasures from various secondhand shops and antique malls across the nation to form what she refers to as her “Collection.”
She has selected the Dogwood and Sunflower mugs for today.
She sits across from me once the tea is served, the skirts of her dress flapping as she relaxes in the wooden chair. She raises the cup to her face with her palms gently around it while she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. I decide to try this procedure myself after watching it with some curiosity.
My palms and chest are fully enveloped in the teacup’s warmth. I move it just above my lips and tremble slightly as I let the fragrance to fill my entire being. I take a drink after feeling a tickle deep within my skin beneath my eyes. When I open my eyes, Elsie is focusing attentively on me.
“This is great,” I say. Her big, loud, and relieved breath is audible.
“I warned you! Isn’t it fabulously lovely? She nudges.
I respond, “I don’t know why I thought it would taste like coffee. It isn’t bitter,
“Absolutely! Did you know…….?
As she starts to reiterate the health advantages, I start to become a little distracted, but I continue to drink the tea. I swirl the few leaves that are at the bottom of my cup with the last of the London Fog before placing it back on the saucer.
Elsie slips her sleeve back as she reaches for the plate, displaying her more recent tattoo on the inside of her forearm. I look at the bird drawn in dark blue ink and the familiar verse “Matthew 10:31” below it.
You are worth more than many sparrows.
Has Dad become accustomed to the concept yet? Asks she. I must have been focusing too intently.
I tell her, “You know your father.” It’s challenging to change him after he’s made up his mind.
She sighs and walks over to the sink, where she places my empty cup.
It’s a lovely concept, isn’t it, she murmurs. In ancient Israel, sparrows had no intrinsic value. But God is still interested in something that humanity views as being so useless. Not even a sparrow falls from the sky unaware of Him. But we believe He will somehow forget about us. Her eyes indicate that she is currently traveling, although briefly. Her face is covered in an unhurried contentment. She glows from it. So, don’t be scared. You are worth more than many sparrows.
I slightly bite my lip in anxiety. Why was it necessary for you to receive it on your skin?
She asks me, “What’s wrong with that?”
In my thoughts, I can hear my mother’s voice. Something to do with Leviticus, and not marking or cutting yourself up for the dead. However, I decline to do that. Elsie had previously heard it. She’s over it in some way.
I respond instead, “You know the kind of individuals who get tattoos. She gives me a look that makes me wish I could go back and undo it. It simultaneously says “you know better” and “here we go.”
She gently says, “I’m the kind of person that gets tattoos, Mom.” How does that make you feel?
I’m bombarded by a lot of thoughts, but I’m unable to express any of them. None of them are things I want to say. But they keep coming.
It indicates that you are straying from the lessons we taught you.
It causes me to be concerned for your soul.
“Are you depressed? Is this a publicity stunt?
Did you carry out this action to rebel against your father and I?
Where did we make a mistake?
But as I gaze at her face, I begin to doubt everything I had previously held to be true.
I manage to say, “I’m not sure.
She nods at me before returning to her seat. I can sense this conversation is not over yet. She’s just thinking things over. Not surprisingly, This girl participated in the school debate team for two years. She can put you in a pickle faster than you can remember what you just said thanks to her intelligence.
She begins, “Did you know that Jesus has a tattoo.
I flinch. This has to be some bizarre, new-age, megachurch nonsense that a television pastor peddled. How can my daughter, who has attended church since she was two weeks old, led her youth group, and attends weekly Bible lessons, be drawn into that? How?
I respond, “Elsie, you’re being foolish.”
“I mean it! Her voice drops as she says, “John states in Revelation that he sees Jesus in Heaven, and. It always does whenever she quotes the Bible. The words “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” are inscribed on His thigh.
Again, I blink. I spent countless hours reading that passage while seated in my den. It’s in three different Bibles that I’ve read. When I was in first grade, my father handed me a children’s Bible. I bought my study Bible when I was a college student. And the Bible I brought home from my mother’s funeral last Christmas. I’ve never arrived at Elsie’s understanding, though.
I attempt to say, “I don’t think that’s what it’s saying.”
“Really? To me, that sounds like it. She queries, “What else do you call something written on someone’s skin?” She knows I don’t have a response, so she goes on. More significantly, though, why does He possess it?
She pauses to prepare a fresh cup of London Fog for herself. Her pupils are almost visibly dilating as a result of the caffeine that is undoubtedly entering her circulation. She has an obvious excitement.
What are you saying? I choke up. To try and offer a genuine response, I need to purchase some time.
She asks again, “Why would Jesus require King of Kings and Lord of Lords tattooed on his skin? Fortunately, she doesn’t give me a chance to attempt to reply. Does He not understand who He is? Does He not recall? He does, of course!
She now exhales and looks back into her teacup. Her finger extends upward and touches the writing on her arm. Those kind words serve as a reminder of how important she is to Him.
She explains to me, “The message isn’t necessarily for the individual who wears it. “It’s intended for the readers. Ink is read by people, I assure you. They are powerless to intervene.
That was true, I had to concede. I was at fault. I would wait to read the sentence that the girl at the supermarket checkout line would reveal as she reached for my things. Or the bank teller, or the unidentified man with his sleeves rolled up. It was as though the phrases were just drawing my gaze there.
And perhaps they will need a reminder when they read it. Or perhaps they’ve never seen it before and approach you and inquire, in a pitchy voice once more, “Hey, what does your tattoo mean? This poem has come up in so many random talks I’ve had with so many random folks. And what about that? I believe God is totally okay with that. He might have wanted me to speak with them. Maybe I’ll be the first to say, “Hey!” to them. What’s this? You’re appreciated!
I can only look at her. A red spot on her neck becomes darker when she becomes ecstatic. Few individuals are aware of its location. It is currently flushed crimson.
Her comments penetrate a theology wall in my head that has been so solidly in place that moss has undoubtedly grown along the ridges of its stones. When was the last time I expressed appreciation to someone? Definitely not in the supermarket. But suddenly, I pictured my daughter stopping someone on the bus, in the park, or while getting popcorn at the movies and telling them that they mattered to God.
It was also quite lovely.
She accepts my hand when I extend it to her. We’re done, I know that. She is not in need of a compromise. She doesn’t want me to give up and concede. Not in her style. However, we are both aware that we have arrived at a level of understanding that we haven’t before discussed. But now that we are here. It also feels good.
I say to her, “If you don’t mind, I’d like another cup of tea.”
She beams with smiles. I had hoped that you would.