Memories of a Childhood Friend

It's been many years now that I've lived in Canada, but I still subscribe to the newspaper from the small town in England where I grew up. The news is often weeks old, yet I maintain that link to my youth and often wax nostalgic.

But, on a cold evening last winter, as I sat and read my paper, I was saddened to learn that old Mr Maxey had passed away after a long illness, at the age of 87. For a while, I just stared into my living room, replaying those memories from so long ago.

In those days Mr Maxey ran a shop, one of those small everything-in-one shops that you'll find in a country village. Often my mother would give me a few coins and send me down the street words such as, "We'll be needing some greens for tonight, best you'd go to Mr Maxey and get them for us."

But whether it was greens, or flour, or potatoes or milk, mum never knew how much I enjoyed visiting Mr Maxey. He and I were friends, you see, of the special variety that bridges the generations. How I loved his tales of the Great War and of India! Mum would wonder why it took me so long to run a simple errand, and all I'd say was, "Mr Maxey wanted to talk." Little did she know how much I wanted to listen.

There was one really special thing, though, that I seldom mentioned, because mum didn't think little ones should be drinking strong tea. With a wink and a smile, Mr Maxey, when starting out one of his stories, would pass me a small cup of tea, with a little milk and sugar, and I would enjoy this tea while the tale unfolded. What wonderful, colorful and flavorful tea this was! I would savor every drop of it, even as I savored every word of the stories. It was like no other tea I had ever tasted. Mr Maxey once told me that his was a special blend, developed by his father years ago, Mr Maxey Senior. Every now and then I would ask Mr Maxey how the tea was made, but he just smiled and said, "That's our little secret, you know."

Those were wonderful days for me, filled with delights... but all things end. World War II was on the horizon, and as I grew into my teens, the world was changing around me. Military service quickly came, I moved to London after the war, and nothing would ever be quite the same again. Eventually I married and moved to Canada with my new family.

Still, from time to time, I thought about Mr Maxey and that wonderful blend of tea... not too weak, not too strong, just right in every respect. The passage of the years didn't dim the memory of that special brew, though I thought I would never taste it again. Then, one day, I got a catalog in my mail from a new tea-shop called "Tea Trader". And, what did I see in the catalog but a listing for "Mr Maxey's Own"!

This couldn't be possible, I thought, and yet I lost no time getting to the car and driving to Bow Valley Square. The owner, Ted Jones, greeted me there. I told him my story quickly, feeling that surely he would think I was, at best, foolish....but Ted smiled and said, "Here, let's try a sample." Ted quickly brewed up a little pot of tea and handed me a cup, with milk and sugar, of course..... I took a sip and knew right away that I had rediscovered an old pleasure.

We talked for a while, and it turned out that Ted's father knew Mr Maxey Senior, and learned the composition of this special blend. Why Mr Maxey Senior entrusted Mr Jones Senior with this secret is unknown even to Ted, but now Ted blends the Ceylon, China, and other select teas that make up this wonderful brew. I left the store with a goodly supply of Mr Maxey's Own, and have returned often to augment my supply.

So, last winter, saddened as I was to hear of Mr Maxey's passing, I soon rose from my chair and my bittersweet reverie, and paid him the best tribute I could think of: I brewed a pot of Mr Maxey's Own and drank it in his memory.

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