I’m on the last novel in my stack with a new book shipment arriving to my doorstep on my return from Chicago next week. I jump on a plane in a couple hours and will be reading my friend Kelly O’Connor McNees endearing debut The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott. Need I say anymore? This is Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, creator of the beloved Jo March, kindred spirit of modern feminists and women writers everywhere! Kelly has spun a wonderful story around the facts of Louisa’s real, ‘imagined’ life. As I mentioned at an earlier tea party, I fall hard and fast for author-inspired biographies—real or fictitious. So for the hours I’m soaring the skies, my imagination will be in Walpole, New Hampshire with the Alcott women.
I quite possibly have the most funkadelic stomach in the world. I’ll just put it out there. In my life, I have experienced every gastrointestinal distress in the book and nearly every embarrassing moment that could go along with those. My family jokes that I was born allergic to the planet and for years I was administered twice a week allergy shots. I remember summers of begrudgingly leaving my friends at pool parties and backyard barbecues so I could check in at the allergy clinic. The smell of pool water and alcohol swabs are fused in my olfactory memory. I received injections of pollen, mold spores, cat dander– whatever antigen we were working on desensitizing that week. Then I’d wait 30 minutes while my arms swelled up with plague-sized boils, and I rated 1-10 how difficult it was to breathe, the pain level of the burning under my skin, the tingling in my toes, and invariably, the churning in my gut. I’m no simple case, you see. On top of all the common allergens, I also suffer from severe food allergies, which for years were misdiagnosed as IBS. It wasn’t until my early twenties that the record got set straight, but by then the years of autoimmune response coupled with my Type-A personality transformed my stomach into a gastric black hole. No specialist on the planet could undo the damage, but I could control what I put inside myself from that point on. It’s been over a decade now and I’ve been faithful to holistic nutrition and my gastroenterologist’s rules about what I can and cannot eat. It’s not a question of “a little taste” either. That’s like telling someone allergic to beestings that it’s a little pinch.
When I was twelve, I fell while riding my bike and have a mangled scar on my right knee to show for it. Everybody has a scar story. And like most, my knee healed up, but the skin never reclaimed its original consistency or color. It’s terribly thin at that spot and if I press too hard, it stings straight through to the bone. I just happened to have the same thing on my inside.
I get a little high-strung when I travel. I’m excited about where I’m going and there’s the laundry list of questions you ask yourself over and over: did I pack everything I need; do I have any liquids over 3 oz.; where’s my boarding pass; does my carry on fit; is the flight delayed; did I lock the house door before I left… my stomach usually reminds me that I need to chill out. I found this tea on my last trip to Chicago. It’s for kids, but I think it’s fantastic for adults too. Organic Tummy Comfort by Traditional Medicines, containing organic lemon balm, chamomile, and peppermint. The hippo on the front is pretty cute too. I’m drinking it now at my favorite airport Starbucks and feel the butterflies in my stomach settling on the steeped blossoms.
Sarah’s Sipping Summary:
All three of the ingredients in this tea are readily found in New England. I envision the Alcott sisters picking fistfuls of lemon balm, chamomile and peppermint from Bronson’s Yellow Wood garden. Being a philosopher and friend of nature-loving Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson would’ve approved of this organic, all-natural brew. (Our 21st century organic movement shares many features of 19th century transcendentalism–nothing new under the sun.) Bronson was sipping tea as he inspected the girls’ daily journals in Chapter Seven, and I imagine the Alcott parlor scented with the same lemony mint rising from my cup.
I’m off to Chicago. Cheers! Sarah