Thankfully, I have many memories of summers spent with my grandparents. They moved out to California's Gold Country from Rhode Island when I was about seven, and lived with us for a few months while they decided where to settle down for their retirement. Once they found a home in a tiny town called Plymouth, we made regular trips to visit; the whole family at first, and then just my sister and I would go, giving our parents a break.
We did lots of things on those trips; I remember Grammy making full Thanksgiving dinners in the middle of July, walking downtown to get ice cream, swimming at the local community pool, playing with the kittens that lived in a neighbor's backyard. But those memories are fleeting. There are two things that go together, that are forever embedded in my memory when I think about my mom and my Grammy.
Iced tea and Scrabble. They would play for hours; game after game, on the back deck overlooking Highway 49. They drank gallons of sun tea, brewed in a big glass jar with lemons silkscreened on the sides. The sound of Scrabble tiles rattling in their bag, the one homemade letter “R” Grampy had made to replace a lost tile. THOSE are the memories that are indelible in my memory.
My mom says that Grammy has simply always played Scrabble. She remembers being recruited to babysit, so that Grammy and her friend Dottie could play. She doesn't really remember when they started playing together. I don't remember when I started playing, either. It's just always been a part of my memory.
All I know is that even now, I can't resist the lure of that slim burgundy box and the clink of ice cubes floating in a glass of iced tea. Iced tea has always been a “grown up ladies” drink, because of my mom and grandma. While they always drank classic black tea, I have expanded my own selection. I love Bigelow's original, Constant Comment (it was my drink of choice throughout my pregnancy). The I Love Lemon made my sister and I feel like adults, sipping it carefully, even as we loaded it with enough sugar to make it sweeter than soda.
And now, we're passing on the tradition to another generation. Faith, my sister's oldest, recently joined us for her very first Scrabble and iced tea afternoon, in my parents' backyard. Josie joined in a little bit, but wasn't really interested in the game part, and just wanted the iced tea with blueberries we were drinking.
I used a fruity tea, and added lots of lemons and blueberries to make it extra special. By using an herbal tea, we get all of the “grown upness” for the kids, without any of the sugar of other drink choices. The fruit just makes it pretty and sweetens it up just a tiny bit.
Bigelow is the perfect choice for our family tradition; it's 100% American made, by an American family. Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, Bigelow began in New York City, where Ruth Campbell Bigelow developed the iconic Constant Comment tea, and has expanded to a worldwide market offering more than 130 varieties of flavored, green, organic, herbal, decaffeinated and iced teas.
You can find many varieties of Bigelow tea at Walmart, so it's always easy to find the perfect flavor. I always stock up on the variety packs when I'm buying, so I have lots of options to offer people who might stop by.
As a homeschooling mom, my sister is always looking for ways to help her girls learn on the go, so she was thrilled when Faith got really into Scrabble, and kept trying to come up with the most challenging words she could think of… it's a great place to use newly-acquired vocabulary for an incoming 4th grader!
I look forward to many more summers of Bigelow and Scrabble with my mom, sister, and nieces. Sometimes it seems like our family traditions are limited, so I have to hold on to the ones I can. And as I write this, it is HOT outside, so I think I should probably put another pot of sun tea out to brew.
What's your favorite Bigelow tea flavor? Do you sweeten your iced tea, or no?
And do you have ANY suggestions of what I could have done with these terrible letters?