Today’s art challenge prompt of tea combined with the warm weather here today immediately made me think of iced tea. I love a glass of ice tea, but have never liked it with sugar added. When I was a kid, we would visit my father’s family in South Carolina. There we would discover something known as “sweet tea.” This isn’t to be confused with sweetened tea, where you add a little spoonful of sugar or packet of sugar substitute. This is a wildly sweet sugar-infused tea, using 1-2 cups of sugar per batch. The name “sweet tea” was actually rarely used when my family visited as it was simply called tea when they served it. There simply wasn’t another option on the menu. Asking my aunt if she had any unsweetened tea would cause her face to contort, shifting from overwhelming confusion to outright disgust. I would immediately feel guilty and ask for a glass of water instead, but this, of course, judging from her newly contorted face, was not an acceptable response either. So I’d quietly drawl in my best fake southern accent that, “I’d surely enjoy a little sweet tea.”
Despite my earlier transgressions, her face would suddenly light up and she would rush off smiling, sometimes even singing to herself, and return with a glistening pitcher. I didn’t like the tea, but it made me smile as well just to know that she was happy. I’d spend the remainder of the time taking fake sips until I could dispose of it properly, but even if she ever knew this, she didn’t seem to care. It was simply a custom to serve sweet tea, what anyone did after that was their business. That’s just good upbringing. This lesson carried with me in life as I grew up and found myself in other similar situations. Sometimes it takes the smallest compromises in the world to make others smile. And given a choice, I’d rather see a face lighting up with joy than contorting in confused pain. There’s no harm in trying someone else’s tradition and, many times, it’s like exchanging a little gift. Sure, maybe the kind you’ll return the next day, but in that moment, it’s a beautiful thing indeed.
It’s been years since I even thought about those times. Funny how a simple drink can bring back so many memories. And I still love trying new things even when I realize they aren’t something I enjoy. If you never try, you’ll never know in the first place. And, for me, knowing the things you don’t like simply makes more room in life for the things you do enjoy. These days, I’ll often have some new thing I’m excited to share with friends. And I’ll sometimes find that I’m literally the only person in the room who finds it quite as thrilling. This does nothing to dissuade my enthusiasm. Even a polite reaction is better than the alternative. And I just think back to my aunt who just wanted to share something that she loved with those she loved as well. It never hurts to take sip of someone else’s enthusiasm, even if, in the end, sweet tea was not for me.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Nickel Azo Yellow, Terra Cotta, Cobalt Blue (my Da Vinci Trio) + Quinacridone Red. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!