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Love we give is the love we receive

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JUNE 12, 2023

When the sun rose, my mom sat at the kitchen table with a cup of tea. This scene was as constant as the rising sun and just as elegant. She lifted the teapot — five fingers hooked around the handle and the other five pinching the lid. 

As she poured herself a cup, the hot liquid streamed out of the instrument, making a sustained, almost musical, cascading sound that filled the quiet of the morning kitchen. 

From a young age, I have adored the idea of drinking a cup of tea because of my mom. However, when I asked her if she could share, she did not let me drink her tea; a seven-year-old drinking caffeinated beverages didn’t sit right with her. 

But, she did walk over to the pantry, shuffle a few snacks around and pull out a box of peach-flavored, non-caffeinated tea bags. She then dropped one in my favorite bunny cup and pressed a button on the water machine, making hot water stream out. 

“The tea bag always goes first.”

The water filled my cup, and I stuck out my hands, waiting for her to hand me my tea, but she shook her head.

“You have to let it brew.”

I frowned. But I waited. 

As I waited, I saw her reach for a jar of honey, scoop out a glop of it with a spoon and swish it around in my cup. When she pulled the spoon out, the honey was gone. 

My mom placed the cup between my hands. I felt the warmth spread throughout my palms.

“Careful. It’s hot.”

I took a slow, expectant sip. The tea ran down my throat, warming up every part of me it touched, and even after fully swallowing my first sip, the sweetness of the honey seemed to dance on my tongue. 

Peach tea with honey is, to me, a very special drink. Every morning, there has been a cup of peach tea with honey waiting for me at the kitchen table. Every test I studied for, among the stacks of papers and textbooks was a cup of peach tea with honey. 

Every time I was sick, peach tea with honey would sit by me on my nightstand, the sweet scent of the steam filling my room. Every time I cried, my mom would quietly listen and tell me everything was going to be okay and brew a hot cup of peach tea with honey that she would later place between my palms. And the heat would seep through my skin, rush up my arms and fill my stomach with the knowledge that everything would be okay. 

My mom isn’t perfect. She is cranky after work and takes it out on others. She criticizes me too harshly sometimes and never apologizes. She isn’t a person of many words, someone who can express how they feel, and that makes things difficult. But she never fails to show me love in her own motherly ways; peach tea with honey is only one of the many. 

Only as I got older did I begin to notice the patterns of my mom’s actions — peach tea came with tears, the same way fresh fruit came with midnight hunger and offers to go out came with my stress. She cares. She always does. 

Of course, there are times I wish my mom could be clearer about what she was feeling or better express her concern through words. However, the truth is that love is not always clear. 

Love can feel as though it is not being given to you even if it is, which is why it is so crucial that we take a step back and spot it in the many forms it comes in. As a result of realizing the love my mom gives me, I’ve learned how to give that love back to her. 

When she snaps at me after a long day of work, even if it is over the most insignificant things such as forgetting to turn off the light in the kitchen or forgetting to take my lunch out of my backpack, I resist the urge to talk back (I used to not hold back at all) and try to lighten up the the mood by sharing funs part of my day or telling her how delicious the lunch or dinner she prepared for me was. 

This newfound understanding of how to give and receive love in ways that aren’t always explicit has manifested itself in all parts of my life. If my friend looks down or tired, I’ll tell her that her hair looks good or that she looks lovely. If a classmate is being left out in a discussion, I’ll bring up a topic that I know interests them and compliment the ideas they share. And at these small acts of love and kindness, I see eyes light up and smiles brighten.

I feel the love that is being given to me too. The love we give is the love we receive. 

When the sun rises, my mom will make me a cup of peach tea with honey. She doesn’t say it out loud, but as she places the steaming drink between my palms, I know it is her way of saying, “I love you.”

I can only hope she knows that taking a sip of the tea is my way of saying, “I love you too.”

Naomi Hsu writes the Monday column on childhood comforts that have shaped the person she is today. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.

AUGUST 05, 2023