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Tea and Comfort

Posted on Friday, April 8th, 2011.

Best friends Victoria Hyde and Lorraine “Stormy” Johnson recently got together at the Macon Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library to talk about their friendship.

They met when Lorraine was in her husband Al’s band. “You didn’t like me”, quips Lorraine. “You thought I was frumpy. ” Victoria laughs. “I didn’t dislike you. I just thought you were boring!” Once they started talking they never stopped. They shared similar family stories, growing up with their grandmothers in Jamaica just one parish apart.

They both wound up in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY, and started families, but in July of 2006 tragedy struck. Vicki’s house was destroyed by fire, all except her collection of teapots. Devastated, she remembers being comforted by her youngest son Shawnell Hyde who had adopted the role of family protector. He said, “You know what I like about you? Sometimes I look at you and I think you’re really a millionaire rich lady doing undercover work in the ghetto.” Vicki laughed. Five days later Shawnelle was shot and killed after a neighborhood barbecue. She recalls the complexity of their loving relationship, “we had a very awkward relationship. He loved me to death and we disagreed to death.”

At the wake, Vicki recalls the pivotal moment when she knew that Stormy was qualified to be her best friend. “When my son was killed, everybody else gives you a card and their condolences, and you gave me a teapot. Because you knew that would make me smile. Nobody else knew to do that.”

Why a teapot? Lorraine explains Vicki’s fascination with teapots and tea etiquette. “You serve tea, it soothes something. We talk around tea, it heals something. I knew she loved tea and teapots. I figured it would make a difference.”

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