During The Heat Wave, I Want to Tell My Mom I Am Making Sun Tea
I wonder if she’ll remember my dad’s technique since he was a sun tea expert. But my mom died eight weeks ago.
We are having a heat wave in Los Angeles. The heat wave makes me think about iced tea and how my father loved to make sun tea. When I was a kid growing up in Florida, my father always made sun tea. I’d come home to find his one-gallon glass jar with the yellow lid, yellow sun, and yellow Sun Tea logo cooking outside our front door.
Years later, when I’d visit my parents in Florida, I’d pull my weekender up their front walkway and there, on the top of the short brick garden wall, would be that pitcher of tea cooking in the sun.
I wanted to make some sun tea during the quarantine heat wave. I Googled sun tea and was looking for a pitcher on Amazon like the one my dad used to have. Instead, I found a bunch of articles about how sun tea isn’t safe. Apparently, the temperature of the tea gets high enough for bacteria to grow and it can make you sick. They said it wasn’t likely, but it could happen.
I wanted to call my dad to discuss this with him but he died seven years ago. It’s weird because the sun tea pitcher with the yellow cap sitting on the brick wall is so vivid that it’s hard to believe that it’s not there, in a neighborhood in Stuart, Florida, and that my dad is not there, too. I see his tea baking outside the front door while he stands outside the back door, down by the water, casting his rod and seeing if the fish are biting.
My mom did not like iced tea but she liked that he made it. She was addicted to Diet Coke. My parent’s refrigerator never had an inch of visible space, even though there were only two of them. Their fridge was packed with cans of Diet Coke and mustard and ketchup and thirteen different bottles of salad dressing. There was probably a platter with a whole turkey that my father cooked the night before shoved onto the middle shelf, haphazardly covered with tin foil.
The fridge was usually jammed with grapefruit, which was my father’s favorite fruit and which my mother also didn’t like, and there was chocolate pudding, and Jell-O, and tons of cold cuts: ham, salami, turkey, and jars of peanut butter, and jars of pickles, and jars of olives, and more condiments than a Subway shop. I opened their fridge slowly because I was always afraid something might fall out. Plus, there had to be a large enough spot on the shelf to put the sun tea pitcher after it had sat in the front yard all morning.
My mom had fake flowers in a crystal pitcher sitting on the dining room table with her crossword puzzles and bills and magazines and other “important papers,” as she called them. These papers were so important that they had been sitting there for years and she had no idea what they were. When I wanted to sit down at the table and I’d push the papers aside, she’d say, “Be careful. Those are my important papers.”
I wanted to call her and tell her I was thinking about making sun tea and did she remember any of my dad’s technique since he was the sun tea expert, but my mom died eight weeks ago. I can’t call her and ask her how my dad got into the sun tea business, or whether or not he heard it could get bacteria in it, or why she never drank it. I can’t call her and ask her why she never looked at her papers, or tell her how much I hate getting the mail, and how looking at piles of paper gives me the feeling that I can’t breathe.
The truth is, I can call her. I know she won’t answer, but that doesn’t stop me from calling. I wonder when my oldest brother, the one who is handling her estate, will cancel her data plan and her phone number will stop working. But I don’t say anything. I hope he will forget for a while because I like leaving messages on her voicemail. Even if she isn’t going to call me back.
I know my mom would like that I bought boxes of Lipton iced tea mix and that I ordered a pitcher on Amazon. I know she’d like that, just like my father, I am going to make sun tea. I am going to fill up the gallon glass jar with the yellow lid, yellow sun, and yellow Sun Tea logo on it. I am going to let it bake on my walkway, right outside my house, where I can see it every time I walk in or out of my front door.