A Cup Full of Gratitude: Tea Bag Momma

Last night as I sat down on my big purple chair in the center of my studio, I felt a something wash over me and whispered to myself, “I am happy.”  I didn’t mean just in that moment, but in my life…I am happy.  Sure I have my struggles and days when I could kick the sidewalk, but life feels beautiful on a regular basis.

Now, that hasn’t always been the case.  When I was 21, my life took a very unexpected turn, and out of the blue, I lost my mom.  She died two months before I was to be married, so my big celebration turned into a rollercoaster ride I couldn’t figure out how to get off of for a very long time.

The last day I spent with my mom was amazing.  We got one of those days that you might create if you KNEW it was your last day together!  We went shopping… all over town.  I don’t remember buying much. In fact, I felt like I walked away from our day of shopping actually RICHER than I did when we left.

First place we headed to was a strip of antique shops packed full of other people’s memories and a few items that reminded Momma of her days growing up.  She told me stories of our family, fleshing out her life in a ways I had never heard before.  As we left the last shop, she stopped and bought an old skeleton key.  She asked the man behind the counter to put it on a ribbon, and she slipped it around my neck.  It hung down, just over my heart. I still wear it often.

From there, we headed to the mall.  We had a Foley’s back then and Foley’s was having a sale.  Up and down the elevators, we explored each of the three floors.  At the top, we found the furniture section, and exhausted, we collapsed on a huge couch dressed with tapestry pillows.  It was the most beautiful couch I have ever seen.  Even to this day, I hold other couches up to its standard and have yet to find one to surpass it.

We sat there, talking of my upcoming marriage, of keeping a good home, and daydreaming about her coming to visit me in the afternoons.  Maybe someday, she said, you will have a couch like this, and I will come every afternoon and drink tea with you and chat about our days.   My fiancé and I were buying a condo a mile down the road from her.  I knew we would see each other often…a fact I took much comfort in because I still didn’t know how to make gravy or cut up a chicken…or a thousand other things I thought a wife should know.  I had a lot of learning to do.  And her desire to come over to see me felt reassuring.

Our day ended with a trip to the candy store.  Mom bought Jelly Belly‘s and on the ride home, we took turns guessing the flavors.  We laughed and dreamed and enjoyed one another…and life.

The next morning I went off to babysit some friends’ kiddos.  I got the call mid-day.  It wasn’t good.  Life took that turn.   And on September 2nd, 1990, after three weeks of struggling in the hospital, Momma passed away.  I was 21 then…and if you do the math, you’ll see that today is 21 years later.  Tomorrow I will have lived longer without her than I did with her.

It’s a dramatic thought, I know.  And I could get all lost in it, but honestly the distance is soothing.  It took me a long time to figure out how to be happy without her.  But, let me tell you, I am figuring it out!  I would much rather be here today then at 22 or 32!  At 42, life is good…because I am making it good.

This blogsite is all about having a creative life…and to me that means MAKING LIFE!  So… get ready for the next turn around.  The story has a happy ending, friends.

You see, sometimes, I find that opportunities come my way that remind me of how precious life is.  My husband sometimes draws little connect-the-dot graphs he calls synchronicity maps, showing how one thing led to another and how they all relate.  Today’s blog is really about that.  My map could go all the way back to my birth…but I won’t put you through that.

Let’s start here…

Let me just say that, as some of you have read, I have been preparing for an art challenge.  Kathleen Conrad, over at New Creations is hosting a Tea Bag Challenge in which she has invited artists to create something with tea bags or the envelops they come in.  I thought it was so much fun!

As I prepared for it, I was suddenly struck with that memory of me and mom on that couch.  But not just that.  You see that memory was so powerful for me, that I have used it to memorialize my mom.  Each year on this day, now for 21 years, I have sat with a friend offered them a cup of tea and told them the story of our last day together.

Today, I am sharing my 21st cup of tea with YOU.

This cup forms the base of an art doll I created over the last couple of weeks to honor my mom.  It has a skirt made of 21 red zinger hibiscus tea bags (the pink color comes from the tea, to gold, I added).  The tea bag in the center of the cup is black tea…the kind mom made sun tea out of in the Summer.  The gold and pearls are to help remind me to treasure the present moment as much as I do the past.  The tag of the tea bag has been made into a tiny heart shaped journal.  It is blank to remind me that my future is wide open and not strictly defined by my past…but certainly influenced by it.

The doll is constructed of wire (one of my favorite mediums to work with).  Her face is a watch, altered with a drawing.  The drawing looks more like me than it does her, but I am okay with that…reminds me that we are much alike.  Hanging inside her chest is a glass vile filled with garnets and a note that reads love.  And in her hands, she holds a nest with three eggs representing to me the three phases of womanhood.  As I move through each phase, I not only learn about myself, but learn more about my mother.  Kind of magical.

The doll makes me so very happy and helps make this day extra special. My mom was the first artist I ever knew.  She painted oil landscapes and taught me the importance of engaging the creative.  I don’t know who I would be without having had her influence in my life.  Luckily, I don’t have to figure that out.

As synchronicity would have it, this morning a new blogger friend, Brandy, posted a beautiful story about her mother and asked others to offer a story of gratitude.  Easy for me today.  That is really what this post is about.  Gratitude for my mom and what she gave me, gratitude for invitations to create (like the ones Kathleen and Brandy are offering), and gratitude towards myself for being willing to create a beautiful life.

I hope your day is filled with gratitude.  Searching for what is going right…even (and especially) in the midst of things going wrong is such a powerful tool for healing our spirits.   Honor my mom with me and share my cup of gratitude by posting what it is YOU are grateful for today…I would consider it a gift.

To see more images (including close ups) of my Tea Bag Momma, head over to my Facebook Page.  To see what other’s are doing with their tea bags, you can visit Kathleen’s site for details….she starts posting those tomorrow.

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About Rachél

Hi, I am Rachél.... the quirky, big-hearted soul behind Creativity Tribe, a sanctuary for your creative spirit. As a life coach and artist, I know the importance of community, celebration, and transformation. Creativity Tribe is abuzz with connections to other creative bloggers and offers tips and stories to inspire your creative lifestyle! http://www.creativitytribe.com/
This entry was posted in ARTivity, Creative Living, creativity, Expressive Art and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to A Cup Full of Gratitude: Tea Bag Momma

  1. kate hawkes says:

    beautiful story/memory. thank you for sharing this – and such amazing art! My mother is alive and well and BUSY! back in Australia -(I am in AZ). My dad died 3 years ago this October. I know something of the bitter-sweetness of memories.
    I did write a piece for Womens Quotes about an incredible woman and cups of tea for which I’ll add the link.http://womensquotes.com/articles/a-cup-of-tea-with-mare
    Graitidude indeed.. for the gifts we are given by friendships, family and strangers.. glad to have met you.

  2. Janece says:

    Oh, Rae…what a precious memory and memorial to your mom. I can only imagine what a young 21 year old would go through, losing her mother. My own is still with me (she’s 79 this month) but she lost both her parents within a day of each other, when she was 17 years old,.

    Today I’m grateful for so many things…the recent change in events with my daughter. The fact that I’ll be leaving on holiday for a week tomorrow. Health, job, home…all the normal things. But thanks to your post, I’ll add some special Gratitude in there for my Mom.

    • Rae says:

      Janece, thank you for your kind words. I can certainly look inward an empathize with my young 21 year old self, but am mostly at peace these days. I miss her of course…and feel sadness…I hope I always will have that. But it is nice to have some distance from the hard grief! Thank you so much for sharing your gratitude today. Feels like a gratitude party!

  3. Carol says:

    This is a beautiful story to share with all of us and what precious memories to hang on to. My mother died four years ago, very unexpectedly, on our son’s wedding day. We told no one, except out-of-town guests as they left the reception that evening. Even our son didn’t find out until the next day. My mother wouldn’t have wanted to spoil their day. Life does take many twists and turns. By the way, love you teabag challenge!

    • Rae says:

      Carol, I imagine that was a day filled with many mixes of emotion. Although my situation was a bit different, I know that personally it was a very confusing day….the day of the wedding. Thank you for sharing YOUR story. These blogs are beautiful tools for connecting.

  4. I am sitting here in awe of this story – thank you for sharing this special day with us. Thanks for allowing my Tea Bag Challenge to be a part of this wonderful memory – I LOVE your Tea Bag Momma and thank you for sharing what each part stands for – so precious!

    • Rae says:

      Kathleen, I was in awe of the timing of your challenge! And where my symbolic mind took it. I certainly didn’t start out to participate in this way, but when I started telling an artist friend about the challenge, this is what came out. Art rocks!….it HEALS…and it rocks!

  5. Joceline says:

    what a beautiful, beautiful post. I’m honoured that you shared today’s cup of tea with us here in blogland. Your mother would be, IS, so proud of you.
    walk in beauty.

  6. Brandy says:

    Rae, thank you for sharing this. And thank you for taking part in the gratitude countdown. I was so deeply moved by your story.

  7. melody says:

    Rae
    Again thanks – this is a beautiful homage to the mother – daughter relationship and such a lovely way of honouring it.
    In 2006 I published Soul Talk – How to share your wisdom with those you love. (For more information please check out – http://www.melodyrgeen.com)
    The book was designed for my son to take with him if and when my wisdom wasn’t as easy as a phone call away! One section concerns itself with the wisdom that flows between daughter and mother – in other words the wisdom we learn from being with our mothers. I would like to share here the thoughts on communication – as you so clearly had a wonderful way of communicating with your mother.

    Communication – not always smooth and easy. often punctuated with anger, resentment ans sullen silence. Occasionally filled with a sense of togetherness, joyfulness, pleasure and pride. Often tempered with humour, laughter and family jokes. And always flowing with love. What is a good life about then that we learn to live with others, share our lives and communicate ourselves through all we do?
    Mother, daughter – the passing line of communication, where love is the thread.

  8. melody says:

    oops! Sorry – let me try that again without the typos!!! (BIG SMILES!!)

    Communication
    Not always smooth and easy.
    Often punctuated with anger, resentment and sullen silence. Occasionally filled with a sense of togetherness, joyfulness, pleasure and pride. Often tempered with humour, laughter and family jokes. And always flowing with love.

    What is a good life about other than we learn to live with others, share our lives and communicate ourselves through all we do?
    Mother, daughter – the passing line of communication, where love is the thread.

  9. Rae,
    Still wiping my eyes, can’t see to type. I was truly touched by your story and I thank you for sharing it. I now get the tea comment from FB earlier in the day. Love Kathleen’s tea challenge. I will have to check her blog tomorrow. Again, I loved your story, it made my heart ache for you.

    • Rae says:

      Deborah, thanks for your support. I am glad the story touched you. I love that it helps to keep my mom’s spirit close to me and feeling alive. I think the little doll will do that too. I am hoping to find a quaint spot for it in my home soon. Right now it is just kinda floating around here and there. Thanks for flying over!!

  10. Awww. what a sweet memory of your mom. My mom was 84 when she died in 2005, one month before my 50th birthday… so whatever the milestone, losing you mom is so hard….you have created beautiful art with your memories of your mom.

  11. Rae, I love your story. The keys are blurry as I type. My mom died suddenly when I was 43 (she was 63) but we had had no wonderful times for several years. You are so blessed to have had such a special day. Thank you so very much for sharing such a precious story. Some people think you shouldn’t get so personal in a blog. I completely disagree. This Is EXACTLY the kind of sharing that makes blogging such a joy. And I LOVE your husband’s chart idea. What a great way of recognizing that some of our worse trials set the stage for the best things in our lives.

    • Rae says:

      I am honored that my story touched you. You know that thing about being personal on blogs….well, I am sure it has its place, but for me, I try to be genuine especially regarding my art. I feel like the stories can be healing for the teller and the listener alike. And because of that medicine, they sometimes just need to be told. Thank you for telling us YOUR story. The fact of life is that we don’t all get that great last day together. It is part of the human experience, and it is sometimes very painful for us. For me, though, it is helpful for me to know in situations where life let me down that others have experienced that….and that I am not alone in my grief. Perhaps you can take comfort in something a friend shared with me yesterday….that there is a shelter in our hearts where the memory of our momma will always live…and in that way she is always with us. I feel that way when I sometimes feel life through her eyes. Hugs to you, new friend.

  12. Eric Payne says:

    great sculpture. a wonderful homage to your mother.

  13. Karen says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story…
    Karen from flying lessons

  14. Hana says:

    Rae, your relationship with your Mom sounds so very special. I cannot imagine losing my Mama, let alone at such a vital stage of life – when you are starting out on your own journey, and need that advice and support. Oh, but your strength shines through! The memories you have stored away, and the way you honour her memory are truly lovely. I love how you see a creative life and living life as one in the same – me too! Thanks so much for sharing this ‘cup of tea’ with us.

    • Rae says:

      Hana, such sweet words! I am finding more and more that life gives me opportunities to turn difficulties into something beautiful. What a neat trick! Thanks so much for visiting. I enjoyed reading your gratitude entry the other day and found it serendipitous that we both wrote of our mommas.

  15. Pingback: Angels & Faeries Week: Tea Cup Angel « Creativity Tribe

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