The difference between the real and the ideal

Hot water steams in the pot, steeping tea. Cups, saucers, sugar bowl laid out on the tray. Volume of beautiful children's stories under the arm. We're about to launch our new tradition of family tea time. Little boys' legs bound up the stairs in front of me into my bedroom. Today we are drinking tea in my sanctuary, away from the noise, the mess and distractions. The sacredness of this creates anticipation in me and fulfills longing. The longing for beauty, for welcoming my English heritage into our daily rituals and for breaking the four o'clock blues that always hit our household. This is new and exciting and we are all eager, ready to engage in the sharing of tea. We get positioned on the bed, snuggled, and I pour the first cup. Little boy has the cup not too full, no saucer. Big boy wants to do it all, have the cup and the saucer and I choose to honor his age, his efforts to do this well. I pour his cup, not too full and place it on the saucer. He receives it with a smile. My cup sits empty on the tray; I watch the amber liquid fall gracefully into it and I smile, satisfied. Suddenly I am jarred by a yell from big boy, and feel the wet against my leg. The bed is soaked, my jeans are soaked and we all need to move. I sigh deeply, oh why do I do that? Big boy says, "Sorry mama, sorry......I guess I shouldn't have a cup....I guess I shouldn't have tea." He starts feeling bad about himself and I try to corral my emotions into care and concern rather than irritation and disappointment. I just keep my mouth shut except to squeeze out, "Luke, it doesn't matter. It was an accident." I pull off wet jeans and put on new. I pull off wet bedspread, walk to the basement and shove it in the dryer, all the time thinking how I am going to make this work. Back upstairs, I put all the cups on the tray and take everything down to the kitchen. I smile, although a weary smile, it's a real smile. "OK boys," I call, "come down here and we'll have tea at the table." They bound down the stairs with smiles and it does my heart good to see that they are not discouraged but just as eager as ever to do tea time. Positioned around the table, tea re-poured, beautiful volume lies in front of me and I ask "Which story shall we read today?" Crash! Down goes Isaac's cup of tea all over beautiful volume. I groan, audibly. I get up, grab the tea towel and wipe off the book.  My expectations are getting shattered by reality. I take a deep breath and a smile forms on my lips, "Well, I guess it's mama's turn to spill her tea now." Little boys laugh and we all relax. We read, we have companionship, we drink together, we share this moment. "I love tea time" says my oldest, and isn't that what it's all about anyway, the love of a thing shared? The joy of doing this together even if I got wet jeans, a wet bed and a wrinkled book cover in the process? I start to clear away the tea pot and little one throws a book and knocks over my cup. There it went, the last cup spills over on the table. I laugh, he laughs and we throw away the ideal and receive what is real, here, today.

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