Rituals: the first cup of tea

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA What do your mornings look like, first thing?

Mine start before the sun. I tip-toe into the children's room and turn on the AC to take the chill out of the air before they wake up, then I walk downstairs and, before anything else happens, I fill the kettle and flip it on.

All those little morning tasks: letting the cat out, turning on the downstairs heat, finding the kids' clothes for the day... all performed to the whoosh-and-hum soundtrack of rapidly boiling water.

Click. Kettle's done. Steaming water over tea, a dash of milk, that first sip so hot it's almost painful but oh so good on the back of my throat.

I take my tea and sit down. Sometimes I write, sometimes I draw. Or I write letters, read letters, listen to podcasts, read a magazine. But always, there is the first cup of tea of the day. The early morning is my special, quiet time, while the rest of my house sleeps, and I could not imagine starting it without tea.

I didn't always keep this ritual. For many years I was a "breakfast first" kind of gal, only moving to tea or coffee mid-morning. But many years ago, while visiting Melbourne on a work conference when I lived in Sydney, I stayed with my good friend Deb in her home. I was feeling a little (a lot) lost in my new job, but I mostly remember that week as a wonderful time of celebrating my friendship with Deb. She was an extraordinarily generous host. She chauffeured me around the city for my conference; took me to different pubs and restaurants every night (where we were ridiculous and believed we were hilarious like only old friends can be); and every morning, as soon as we woke up, she made me a cup of tea. The first cup of tea of the day.

All these years later, I can still picture the corner of her share-house where a tall, gas radiator was attached to the wall, like so many other old houses in Melbourne, pumping out new heat. I can still feel the warmth of the tea Deb had made me, as I cup the mug in my hands.

And every morning, when the scalding hot tea soothes my throat and kick-starts my day, I smile a little smile, and think about Deb.

What about you? What are your morning rituals?