“We had just landed in the US. I wasn’t sure why so many people had warned us about the weather in NY being so cold during the winter. Looking out the window overtop the wing all we saw was a bright and beaming sun. We took all the layers we were told to drape ourselves in and folded them over our arms. The door opened, we made our way to descend the stairs onto the Tarmac.
I have never been so cold in my entire life.
Lesson #1: In a US winter, the sun only means light — it does not mean warmth. We quickly layered our clothes on and it’s a chill that I can still feel some 50 years later. Maybe we should have noticed how all the other people were dressed as they deplaned. Maybe we just should have listened to what we were told in the first place. Nothing like sub-freezing temperatures to knock an unnecessarily confident simle off of one’s face.
We found ourselves to where we were staying for the night; and then made our way nearby to a casual restaurant. We wanted chai. But we were told the best we were going to get in a restaurant was tea.
Lesson #2: Tea and chai are synonyms in India. Not in NY in the late 60’s. We ordered tea. The waiter took our order and came back with the following:> Mug filled with steaming hot water> Saucer beneath the mug> Spoon> A curious looking white packet that contained what we believed to be tea leaves
We looked at each other. Pulled the string off the pouch holding the tea leaves. Ripped it open, and poured the leaves into the mug.
That was easy.
We thought to ourselves…but for the shortest split of a second as we heard yips and yelps heading our direction and turned to find our waiter running over to us in a hurry, with a look of utter surprise and shock…”NO NO NO! You don’t do that! You put the entire bag into the hot water.”
“Excuse me, sir?”
You put the entire tea bag into the hot water. It soaks. And then after a minute you pull out the tea bag whole, and you have your tea.
“We looked at each other. Matching his shock and surprise with our own. What was this magical pouch we were dealing with?”
Remember the mistake we made getting off the plane? We should just listen.
“So we did. When we placed the pouches — these “tea bags” — into the hot water the water instantly darkened and we watched this tea being made in front of our eyes. It was wonderful! We’d never seen anything like it.
“This is wonderful!”
We took a sip and realized it was hot, bitter water. It needed some flavor.
We called the waiter over. He pointed to a collection of white packets on the table and told us “There. There’s the sugar.”
We looked at each other. We nodded to the waiter. Knowingly. Understandingly. We gave him a smile. And we each grabbed a packet of sugar, started at it …… and dropped the whole packet into our freshly steeped tea.
Lesson #3: Packets of sugar work differently than bags of tea.”———————————————————–That … is a brilliant narrative. It’s one of your best stories, and it’s a brilliant arc. How it comes full circle. How it pulls you in. How it helps you visualize. How it immerses you in the scene. It’s all true (I’m sure some edges aren’t, but it’s anchored in reality). It’s the story of yours that I think I’ve told the most.
Of all the things you taught me directly or by example, one I make the most use of is how to tell a story. If there’s anything alive in you, in me, I think it’s that.
#iamgrateful and #iamthankful to have learned this from the greatest storyteller I’ve ever seen. Happy 78th Birthday, Daddy. You’ve gone from being my favorite storyteller to being … my favorite story.