Très Cher

So this new swanky tea place opened up at the mall.  Everyone’s talking about it.  How exotic the teas are…how delicious…how expensive. 

“Can we try it, Mom?”  Squints asked.
I pointed to the pantry, overflowing with tea.  “When all that tea’s gone, I’ll take you to pick out something small,” I told him.  “We’re on a budget.”  Then I laughed to myself.  No one was going to drink the peppermint that sounded so good but tasted horrible.  No one would drink the five hundred dollar green tea my husband got tricked into buying the first time he went to China. 

I was safe.





* * *

“Mom, we should schedule my driving test,” V said, two months ago.  “It takes awhile to get on the schedule.”
I nodded.  “When you’re close to the required hours, I’ll call.”  And, forty hours in, I did.  And I discovered that, rather than getting V in for the test the following week, the earliest available test date was a month and a half out.

After weeks and weeks of waiting, the day of the test approached.  “V,” I said, the day before, “I hate to say this, but I would get a little dressed up.  You know…can’t hurt.”
“What?”  V squinted at me.  Had her mother lost her mind?

“Maybe a skirt?  Some makeup?  I mean, I hate to play the game but…”
So V—my daughter who lives in sweats.  V—my daughter who fashioned a necklace out of a clock key of all things.  V—my daughter who takes pride in not conforming—V put on a skirt.  And lipstick.

We drove to the test, both of us nervous.  We ran through the basics again.  Lights.  Hazards.  Defroster.  “I’m going to fail, Mom.”
“You’re not going to fail.  You have over a hundred hours in.” 

 The examiner approached the car.  He held up a form.  “Have you signed this, Mom?”
“Um…”  I stammered, suddenly wishing that I, too, had worn a skirt.  “No.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t…”

He thrust the pen and a paper at me.  “Sign it.” 
I did.  Quickly.

“Leave the car.”
“Bonne chance,” I whispered to V.  Good luck.

Five minutes later, V returned, having failed the parallel parking portion of the test.
“You can retake your test in a week,” the examiner said, handing V her permit with a red check in the first of five failure boxes.

“Next time, I’m going as me,” V said.  “I’m wearing my sweats and I’m wearing my key and I don’t care what he thinks about how I look.”
The next day we called to reschedule V’s driving test.  We got her in for the earliest date…six weeks hence.  And the very next thing I did was ask my friend to teach V how to parallel park, something I was unable to do: The last time I successfully parallel parked was during my own driver’s exam. 

* * *
I was at the mall today.  I needed to buy two gifts: a birthday present for my sister and a thank you gift for the friend who’d spent two and a half hours teaching V to parallel park. 

“Let’s try the tea place, Mom,” Squints said.
A woman stood at the entrance holding a tray of small plastic cups.  Squints raced over and whipped one off the tray.  “Mmmmm.  Mom, try this.”

“May I help you?”  The woman asked, following us in with her tray. 
“I’m looking for tea,” I stammered, immediately feeling stupid.  “For a gift.  But I’ve heard your tea is pretty expensive.”  I picked up a tin.  Ten dollars.  “This doesn’t look too bad.”

 “Tea doesn’t have to be expensive,” she soothed.

Agreed.  A box of one hundred bags of Red Rose costs three ninety-nine and even includes a neat figurine.

“The tea your son sampled has a nice bouquet.”
I smiled.  “I feel like I’m buying wine,” I said, wanting to sound suave and confident.  Truth was, I know nothing about wine.  The closest I get to wine is the occasional sip at Communion and cider that has spent too many weeks in the fridge.

The woman removed a massive jar of tea from the shelf, opened it up to show us the beauty of the blend.  She fanned the lid, sending a lovely fragrance our way. 
“That’s nice,” I said.  I noted the price on the side.  “Seven fifty a pound?  Not bad.”

The woman smiled.  “That’s per ounce.”  She pulled a tall tin from the shelf.  It must’ve been eighteen inches at least.  “We recommend these air-tight tins.  We guarantee the tea remains fresh for a year in them.”
I nodded.  “What would a couple of ounces look like?” 

She smiled and shoveled a couple of scoops into the tin before tapping it on the counter.  “Like this.”
I squinted.  “That doesn’t look like much.  How about a couple more scoops?” 

Again she smiled.  “OK.”  She scooped.  She tapped.  She held out the tin.
The tea took up about two inches.  “I don’t want to look like a cheapskate.  Could I just…you know, put the tea in a bag?”

“Yeah,” a man beside me said.  He was buying several varieties of teas.  “Then put the bag in the tin.  Takes up more space that way.”
“Good idea,” a second clerk said.  He was measuring out a fun blend for the helpful customer beside me.

“That works."  A third clerk had mysteriously materialized before us.  “Just put in it a bag.”
“OK,” the woman said, transferring the tiny bit of tea into a small bag and poking it into the airtight tin. 

“Mom?”  Squints said.  “Can we get some?  Or is it très cher?”
Squints and I use these code words sometimes.  Rather than embarrassing myself by admitting that we can’t afford something, I tell him it’s too expensive.  In French.  So even if we can’t afford it, at least we can sound kind of sophisticated talking about our lack of funds. 

“Mom?”  He said again.  "Très cher?"

“Oh, I suppose we can get a little,” I said.  I wanted a fun blend too.  “But we’re not getting that tin,” I said firmly.  We’re on a budget after all.

He grinned.  “Thanks, Mom.”
“So…a bit more for us,” I said, pointing.

The three clerks smiled and nodded.  They scooped and poured and weighed.  “You know,” the third clerk said.  “You’re just a wee bit shy of our fifteen percent discount."

"How much shy?"

He held up a thumb and index finger.  "Just half a pound.”
“Oh!” I said, feeling rather lucky and adventurous and fun.  “Give us another blend.”  How much could a half of pound of tea cost, anyway?

Forty dollars, as it turns out. 
“All our blends are sweetened with pure beet cane sugar.”  Clerk number two gestured to a jar full of beet sugar. 

“Uh…no thanks,” I said, feeling my knees buckle as I realized that half a pound was eight ounces.  
“Would you like to see how we prepare our teas?”  Clerk number one asked.

“Show Squints,” I said.  “He’s the chef.”
Squints followed her to a shelf. 

I started calculating.  How much had I committed to spending?  I bit my lip, waiting for the total, thinking of the college textbooks we have to order for Filibuster next week.  I wiped my brow, waited for the total.  Squints approached.  “Cher?"  He whispered.
“Oui.”

We left the store.
“Did she show you how to make the blend?”  I asked.

“She wanted to sell me a tea brewing machine.”
* * *

It's a cool night.  It’s a relaxing night.  It’s a tea night.
I put kettle on and toss a bag of Red Rose into my mug, ignoring the blends in the closet.

Because no matter how much fancy-pants tea I buy, in the end, I’m not so suave.  In the end, I’m just me, the way V is V in her sweats and clock-key necklace and her messy hair.
Six weeks from now, V will make her second attempt at parallel parking. 

I wonder if the examiner is fond of tea.
This was linked with Yeah Write's Hangout Grid.





Labels:

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Très Cher

Friday, June 15, 2012

Très Cher

So this new swanky tea place opened up at the mall.  Everyone’s talking about it.  How exotic the teas are…how delicious…how expensive. 

“Can we try it, Mom?”  Squints asked.
I pointed to the pantry, overflowing with tea.  “When all that tea’s gone, I’ll take you to pick out something small,” I told him.  “We’re on a budget.”  Then I laughed to myself.  No one was going to drink the peppermint that sounded so good but tasted horrible.  No one would drink the five hundred dollar green tea my husband got tricked into buying the first time he went to China. 

I was safe.





* * *

“Mom, we should schedule my driving test,” V said, two months ago.  “It takes awhile to get on the schedule.”
I nodded.  “When you’re close to the required hours, I’ll call.”  And, forty hours in, I did.  And I discovered that, rather than getting V in for the test the following week, the earliest available test date was a month and a half out.

After weeks and weeks of waiting, the day of the test approached.  “V,” I said, the day before, “I hate to say this, but I would get a little dressed up.  You know…can’t hurt.”
“What?”  V squinted at me.  Had her mother lost her mind?

“Maybe a skirt?  Some makeup?  I mean, I hate to play the game but…”
So V—my daughter who lives in sweats.  V—my daughter who fashioned a necklace out of a clock key of all things.  V—my daughter who takes pride in not conforming—V put on a skirt.  And lipstick.

We drove to the test, both of us nervous.  We ran through the basics again.  Lights.  Hazards.  Defroster.  “I’m going to fail, Mom.”
“You’re not going to fail.  You have over a hundred hours in.” 

 The examiner approached the car.  He held up a form.  “Have you signed this, Mom?”
“Um…”  I stammered, suddenly wishing that I, too, had worn a skirt.  “No.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t…”

He thrust the pen and a paper at me.  “Sign it.” 
I did.  Quickly.

“Leave the car.”
“Bonne chance,” I whispered to V.  Good luck.

Five minutes later, V returned, having failed the parallel parking portion of the test.
“You can retake your test in a week,” the examiner said, handing V her permit with a red check in the first of five failure boxes.

“Next time, I’m going as me,” V said.  “I’m wearing my sweats and I’m wearing my key and I don’t care what he thinks about how I look.”
The next day we called to reschedule V’s driving test.  We got her in for the earliest date…six weeks hence.  And the very next thing I did was ask my friend to teach V how to parallel park, something I was unable to do: The last time I successfully parallel parked was during my own driver’s exam. 

* * *
I was at the mall today.  I needed to buy two gifts: a birthday present for my sister and a thank you gift for the friend who’d spent two and a half hours teaching V to parallel park. 

“Let’s try the tea place, Mom,” Squints said.
A woman stood at the entrance holding a tray of small plastic cups.  Squints raced over and whipped one off the tray.  “Mmmmm.  Mom, try this.”

“May I help you?”  The woman asked, following us in with her tray. 
“I’m looking for tea,” I stammered, immediately feeling stupid.  “For a gift.  But I’ve heard your tea is pretty expensive.”  I picked up a tin.  Ten dollars.  “This doesn’t look too bad.”

 “Tea doesn’t have to be expensive,” she soothed.

Agreed.  A box of one hundred bags of Red Rose costs three ninety-nine and even includes a neat figurine.

“The tea your son sampled has a nice bouquet.”
I smiled.  “I feel like I’m buying wine,” I said, wanting to sound suave and confident.  Truth was, I know nothing about wine.  The closest I get to wine is the occasional sip at Communion and cider that has spent too many weeks in the fridge.

The woman removed a massive jar of tea from the shelf, opened it up to show us the beauty of the blend.  She fanned the lid, sending a lovely fragrance our way. 
“That’s nice,” I said.  I noted the price on the side.  “Seven fifty a pound?  Not bad.”

The woman smiled.  “That’s per ounce.”  She pulled a tall tin from the shelf.  It must’ve been eighteen inches at least.  “We recommend these air-tight tins.  We guarantee the tea remains fresh for a year in them.”
I nodded.  “What would a couple of ounces look like?” 

She smiled and shoveled a couple of scoops into the tin before tapping it on the counter.  “Like this.”
I squinted.  “That doesn’t look like much.  How about a couple more scoops?” 

Again she smiled.  “OK.”  She scooped.  She tapped.  She held out the tin.
The tea took up about two inches.  “I don’t want to look like a cheapskate.  Could I just…you know, put the tea in a bag?”

“Yeah,” a man beside me said.  He was buying several varieties of teas.  “Then put the bag in the tin.  Takes up more space that way.”
“Good idea,” a second clerk said.  He was measuring out a fun blend for the helpful customer beside me.

“That works."  A third clerk had mysteriously materialized before us.  “Just put in it a bag.”
“OK,” the woman said, transferring the tiny bit of tea into a small bag and poking it into the airtight tin. 

“Mom?”  Squints said.  “Can we get some?  Or is it très cher?”
Squints and I use these code words sometimes.  Rather than embarrassing myself by admitting that we can’t afford something, I tell him it’s too expensive.  In French.  So even if we can’t afford it, at least we can sound kind of sophisticated talking about our lack of funds. 

“Mom?”  He said again.  "Très cher?"

“Oh, I suppose we can get a little,” I said.  I wanted a fun blend too.  “But we’re not getting that tin,” I said firmly.  We’re on a budget after all.

He grinned.  “Thanks, Mom.”
“So…a bit more for us,” I said, pointing.

The three clerks smiled and nodded.  They scooped and poured and weighed.  “You know,” the third clerk said.  “You’re just a wee bit shy of our fifteen percent discount."

"How much shy?"

He held up a thumb and index finger.  "Just half a pound.”
“Oh!” I said, feeling rather lucky and adventurous and fun.  “Give us another blend.”  How much could a half of pound of tea cost, anyway?

Forty dollars, as it turns out. 
“All our blends are sweetened with pure beet cane sugar.”  Clerk number two gestured to a jar full of beet sugar. 

“Uh…no thanks,” I said, feeling my knees buckle as I realized that half a pound was eight ounces.  
“Would you like to see how we prepare our teas?”  Clerk number one asked.

“Show Squints,” I said.  “He’s the chef.”
Squints followed her to a shelf. 

I started calculating.  How much had I committed to spending?  I bit my lip, waiting for the total, thinking of the college textbooks we have to order for Filibuster next week.  I wiped my brow, waited for the total.  Squints approached.  “Cher?"  He whispered.
“Oui.”

We left the store.
“Did she show you how to make the blend?”  I asked.

“She wanted to sell me a tea brewing machine.”
* * *

It's a cool night.  It’s a relaxing night.  It’s a tea night.
I put kettle on and toss a bag of Red Rose into my mug, ignoring the blends in the closet.

Because no matter how much fancy-pants tea I buy, in the end, I’m not so suave.  In the end, I’m just me, the way V is V in her sweats and clock-key necklace and her messy hair.
Six weeks from now, V will make her second attempt at parallel parking. 

I wonder if the examiner is fond of tea.
This was linked with Yeah Write's Hangout Grid.





Labels:

14 Comments:

At June 18, 2012 at 1:50 AM , Anonymous Tara Roberts said...

I love teas. If my husband had his way, I would have to drink all that I have now before I buy anymore... not going to happen.

The only thing that saved me from failing driver's ed in school was that I COULD parallel park. It's a hard skill to master. I was a fluke and seemed to pick it up easily.

 
At June 18, 2012 at 1:50 AM , Anonymous Leslicollins said...

I like this very much. If more folks were "on a budget" we probably wouldn't be in the state we're in today!

 
At June 18, 2012 at 1:53 AM , Anonymous Shelton Keys Dunning said...

Dad's idea of tea is Liptons. No sugar, no lemon, brewed so strong you can float a horseshoe in it. I have learned that I hate iced tea with a passion. But sometimes, Mom would bring down Grandma's teapot, and surprise me with a Celestial Seasonings something or other.(She was fond of Lemon Zinger.) And we'd sip tea with cream (milk) and eat fancy triangle cut sandwiches (no crust PB&J) and Mom would tell stories of her childhood. And I drank it all up.

A good tea isn't reflected in the cost. A good tea is reflected in how cozy it keeps you on the inside long after the flavors and bouquet are lost in memory.

 
At June 18, 2012 at 1:54 AM , Anonymous Erin @momfog said...

I had tea parties when I was a little girl with all the girls in the neighborhood. My mom would make little cakes and serve tea in my own little tea set. It was lovely. I'm pretty the tea was Lipton, maybe even a store brand, but it doesn't matter. She made us feel special and so sophisticated.

 
At June 18, 2012 at 1:55 AM , Anonymous Shasta Kearns Moore said...

:) C'est une très bonne idée! I'll have to use French code words with my little ones, too. Glad you resist the urge to drink tea you don't like because you feel like you "have" to.
Visiting from Writing on Edge.

 
At June 18, 2012 at 1:57 AM , Anonymous jaum said...

I think I want to go shopping with you and Squints!~!

 
At June 18, 2012 at 2:01 AM , Anonymous Amdonough84 said...

I'm afraid your family is doomed to overpriced tea. Probably hereditary. You must all stay away from teashops. Maybe have your kids carry an alert bracelet?

 
At June 19, 2012 at 6:10 AM , Anonymous Jennifer Worrell said...

Best wishes in the parallel parking department. I get shivers thinking about it...glad I live in the country!!!!! Great post!

 
At June 19, 2012 at 6:20 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I lived in the country, too, but I still had to parallel park during my test! My daughter discovered that in certain states you don't have take the parallel parking test. Seriously considering moving...

 
At June 19, 2012 at 6:32 AM , Anonymous IASoupMama said...

My four-year-old is forever pestering me to make "milk-tea," aka decaf chai with milk and agave nectar. She is the only wee on I know that begs for tea... We're living on the wrong side of the pond...

Lovely story! And good luck to V on the next test -- I failed my first exam, but aced the second.

 
At June 19, 2012 at 9:14 AM , Anonymous Momwich said...

I failed Parallel parking too - but still received my license. It's a good thing too since I have never in my life parallel parked. My husband lived in Chicago forever, he can parallel park with is eyes closed. I just don't see the point. Good luck to V on her next test.

 
At June 19, 2012 at 12:09 PM , Anonymous Flood said...

Great writing, your dialogue is terrific. I received some tea with popcorn in it as a gift. Popped popcorn! Wild.

 
At June 20, 2012 at 5:24 AM , Anonymous PlaceofGreaterSafety said...

Does anyone ever drink all the teas they have in their cabinet? I stopped drinking it all when I was pregnant, and gave a bunch away, and I still have tea in there. I thought you were safe, too...

Loved this story so much. So well-written. Thanks for linking up with Yeah Write!

 
At June 21, 2012 at 10:18 AM , Anonymous Dawn Beronilla said...

I really enjoyed your story. It was really well told, and just so real.
Great job!

 

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