By Nancy Lou Henderson
As Elsa filled the small pan with water at the sink, she looked out the kitchen window, and her mind wandered back to her childhood. (How many times had she done this same routine early in the morning of a hot summer day?) When she had filled the pan with just the right amount of water, she placed it on the burner on the stove. While waiting for the water to come to a boil, Elsa opened the cabinet, grabbed the box of teabags. She placed the right amount of teabags into her Grandmothers’ well-used teapot. After the water began to boil, she turned off the burner and poured the hot water over the teabags in the teapot. Elsa put the lid on the teapot then left the room while the hot water seeped through the teabags.
It was a tradition in Elsa’s family to pick fresh mint growing by an old dripping faucet in the backyard to put into the seeping tea. Elsa pinched off a few leaves of the mint, and then she returned to the kitchen to wash and place them in the pot with the teabags. Elsa’s mind wandered back in time as she got a large glass pitcher from the cabinet and the canister of sugar. She could see her Grandfather sitting in a porch swing as her Grandmother opened the screen door onto the porch while carrying a tray with two glasses of Southern Sweet Mint Tea and a glass of lemonade. In her mind, Elsa could still hear her Grandmother’s words so clearly, “Southern Sweet Mint Tea for the forever love of my life and lemonade for our beautiful Granddaughter.” Her Grandmother’s words, “Forever love of my life,” had stayed with Elsa from that day forward. (Where was the forever love of her life? Would she ever serve him her homemade Southern Sweet Mint Tea?)
Elsa cleared her thoughts then opened the canister of sugar. Using the scoop inside, she put two heaping scoops of sugar into the pitcher, then poured the hot tea from the teapot over the sugar. Elsa stirred the sugar and tea until the sugar melted. The aroma of the mint filled the room as she filled the pitcher with water until two-thirds-full. Elsa got ice cubes out of the freezer then put them into the pitcher filling it to the top. She placed the pitcher of tea and two large glasses on a tray, walked through the house, opened the screen to the porch, set the tray on a table near the porch swing, poured tea into one of the glasses, and then sat down on the porch swing. Elsa took a drink of the tea, closed her eyes, smiled, and began to swing.
Lost in her thoughts, suddenly, Elsa was startled back to reality by a voice saying, “Ma’am, I was walking by and noticed the limb hanging from the tree over your roof looks broken.” Opening her eyes, she saw a young man standing at the bottom of the stairs leading to the porch. Getting up from the swing, Elsa walked to the steps. The young man stretched out his hand to shake hers then said, “Howdy, my name is Jake.”
Elsa shook his hand while saying, “Hi, my name is Elsa. Nice to meet you, Jake. Thank you for letting me know about the limb. Sadie is a tiny town, and I don’t recall seeing you around here.”
Jake smiled at her, then replied, “I just moved into town last week and looking for handyman work. I worked for a logging company up North but decided to move south, too many cold winters up there. If you want, I can cut that limb down for you?”
Elsa looked into Jake’s blue eyes, and she felt her face flush as her heart began to beat faster. (You don’t even know this man! It must have been the tea. Take a deep breath.) As she exhaled, a familiar voice came from behind her saying, “Elsa did you get that tea made? I am parched, but that shed is clean. Who is this guy?”
Elsa turned her gaze from Jake’s eyes to answer Jed, saying,” Jed, this is Jake. He is new in town. While walking by, he noticed a limb broken and hanging over the roof.”
Jed and Jake shook hands, then Jed invited Jake to have a glass of tea with them. Jake agreed, so Elsa went to get another large glass from the kitchen. When she returned, she poured the guys some tea, handed it to them, then sat down on the swing by Jed, as Jake took a seat in the rocking chair next to the swing. Jed put his arm around Elsa then said, “This woman makes the best Southern Sweet Mint Tea in the town of Sadie and maybe the whole south. Thank you, Elsa.”
Although focused on Elsa’s beauty but disappointed that she was married, Jake smiled, then told them that he had not drunk such excellent tea. Jed told Jake that they had inherited the house from their Grandparents, and they were cleaning out the house getting it ready for sale. Elsa told Jed that Jake was looking for some handyman work, so maybe they could hire him to help. Jed shook his head in agreement then asked, “What do you think, Jake? Would you like to work for my sister and me to get this old place ready for sale?”
Jake’s thoughts rushed as his heart began to beat quickly. (Sister, did he say sister? She is not his wife. Could I be that lucky?) Jake took a deep breath, smiled, then answered, “I would be happy to work for you two. Of course, I will need lots of this Southern Sweet Mint Tea.”
Months passed as they all worked on the old homestead. Jed asked Jake to move into one of the spare bedrooms upstairs. Elsa made tea every day with Jake standing nearby watching and learning. They all worked hard together during the day, but they all sat together on the porch in the evening after supper drinking Southern Sweet Mint Tea. During these evenings, Jed noticed that Jake had replaced him sitting next to Elsa on the porch swing. Jed knew before they did that they were in love.
One evening after they all put the for sale sign in the front yard of the old home, Jake got a phone call. He told Jed and Elsa that he had to make a trip back up North, and he did not know when he would return. Elsa asked him why, but he hung his head then told her only that it was necessary. The following day early in the morning, Jake left their home without saying goodbye. Elsa was devastated. No matter how hard he tried, Jed could not console her.
A month passed without any contact from Jake. The realtor called, telling them that they had a buyer for their home who wanted to pay cash for the home and any furniture in the house. Also, the buyer wanted them to meet with him and the realtor at the house to sign the paperwork. Jed and Elsa agreed to the sale.
Elsa could not wait to get her things packed and get out of the house. Knowing Elsa needed to get out of the house, Jed decided that the night before the signing, Elsa and he would stay at the Bed and Breakfast in town, which would get them away from home. So, the day before the signing, Jed and Elsa dropped the keys to the house at the realtor’s office. The realtor told them she would see them the next evening around six o’clock to sign the papers, finalizing the sale of the house.
The next evening Jed and Elsa drove to the house. As they got out of the car, Jed took Elsa’s hand while walking to the porch. The realtor standing on the porch asked them to be seated, and the buyer would be right out.
Jake put four glasses and the pitcher full of Southern Sweet Mint Tea on the tray walked through his home, and opened the screen door to the porch, then said, “Southern Sweet Mint Tea for the forever love of my life, her brother, and my friend the realtor. Will you marry me, Elsa?”
Elsa and Jed jumped up from the swing and ran towards Jake. Jed grabbed the tray out of Jake’s hands just as Elsa ran into his arms, saying, “Yes.”
Jake explained that he was not just a logger, but he owned the logging company and had to go back up North to sell the business, so he could buy the house and marry Elsa.