Voices overlap as our rented van zips through the rainy streets of Seattle. My dad is driving and everyone else is joining in as the chorus of backseat drivers: “Take a left here!” “There’s a spot over there!” “Turn your wheel more to the right!” “Watch out there’s a car here!” There are eight polarizing personalities confined to this van, embraced only by blood and marriage, and it’s absolute chaos.
My family is spread across the United States; most are sprinkled across the west coast, while a handful of us live in the east coast. It’s a rare treat when we get to be in the same city, but it can also be strenuous. Time spent with my family, like most families, is a dance of deep love and unremitting frustration. After exploring the city with members of my family, I am full of joy, but equally physically and emotionally spent. Throughout the day, my brother dodges questions of marriage as I shadow box others thrown in front of me, “When are you going to go back to school?” “When am I going to have grandkids?” “What do you plan to do with your life?”
When everyone else settles back into their respective hotel rooms, I nestle onto my favorite spot on the couch at my parent’s home. My mom places a cup of tea gently onto the wooden coffee table before dropping herself onto the couch. We both kick our feet up and groan with pleasure, drinking in the quiet and massaging each other’s arms.
My mom seeps the tea I brought for her: Far Leaves puer mixed with dried chrysanthemum flowers. The sweetness of the flowers compliments the earthiness of the puer. Together they are like pillows under our necks after the day’s disarray. We hug the tea in our hands as we laugh about my uncle’s sassiness or my dad’s jokes. I soak in my mom’s scent for our last night as it mixes with the floral notes of this mixed tea. Her hair has a bit more white now than it had a year ago, but her laugh is just as deep and contagious. My dad joins us on the couch, and the night wanes on. The three of us share some more tea and memories, savoring each minute before I need to pack for my trip back to Pennsylvania.