Not My Cup of Tea


“If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”  – Abraham Lincoln

I am always surprised that in the midst of our very technological and scientific age a great deal of interest still exists in the supernatural. Psychics, tarot card readers and fortune tellers all seem to be doing a brisk business. Maybe people seek out these mystics for entertainment value or maybe for answers not provided by science. Whatever their reason I just know that my curiosity in such matters was staunched at a very young age.

I must have been about 9 years old and spending a Sunday afternoon at my uncle and aunt’s farm. It was a lazy, boring day and my slightly older cousin and I were trying to find something interesting to do when their elderly neighbour, out for her daily walk, stopped by for a visit. My attention was immediately piqued!

Mrs. McDougall was a tall, sinewy woman with steel-gray hair and piercing blue eyes. In the district she was known as a no-nonsense, plain-speaking, hardworking woman. Her strong Scottish accent was a novelty, but what really intrigued me was her supposed ability to read tea leaves to tell one’s future. My cousin had been lucky enough to have hers read a while back and ever since then I, too, had been waiting for a chance to find out what life held in store for me.

After some polite conversation my aunt began to set the table for an afternoon lunch. I couldn’t help but notice that she had placed teacups for everyone. My cousin and I would be allowed to drink tea instead of the customary juice giving me the opportunity I had been waiting for. As I nervously sipped my tea, I wondered how I would broach the subject. The idle chitchat about the weather and gardening swirled about me as I contemplated my situation.

Then there was a lull in the conversation and my aunt gave me a knowing look and a little nod. When I didn’t respond my cousin kicked me under the table. That woke me up! The moment had come. I swallowed hard and nervously stammered out, “Mrs. McDougall, could you please read my tea cup?”

Her head swivelled in my direction, over the rim of her glasses she fixed me with a scathing glare, and then in her harshest Scottish brogue she pronounced, “Thou shalt not work on the Sabbath!”

I melted down into my chair trying to escape her judgemental stare. I could feel tears starting to well up and in a squeaky voice I asked to be excused from the table.

That ended my one and only attempt to have my fortune told. Since that time I have stuck to the occasional reading of my horoscope in the paper or checking the slip of paper in my Chinese fortune cookie. These seem to be much safer options!


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