Barbara's Entourage

Invitation To A Tea Party

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My earliest recollection of a specific toy was a brightly colored china tea set. I know there were dolls and carriages and beds, little stoves and cook sets, stuffed animals..all the usual wonderful childhood toys and I still fondly remember many of those. But my first recollection is rather unusual, I suppose. I can see in my memory of that long-ago past, a little blue table and chairs, set up prettily just off the front porch under an overhanging apple tree. It must have been on a warm October day following my birthday, because on the table was my brand new tea set. Then the unusual part.. another little girl whose identity is long forgotten was present, whether at an invitation to my tea party or who crashed my private party I do not know. Things get a little muddy here, but my next memory is of her running away shouting angrily and I am crying my heart out. All my pretty dishes are broken, lying all over the ground. Only a few pieces escaped, and I have one of those little cups in my display case till this day. Whenever I hold it I have mixed feelings. Sadness for the little girl whose party literally came crashing around her feet and nostalgia for those days when little girls adored tea parties.

Another childhood memory on a sweeter note is of other tea parties with another little friend, Lucille. My mother kept the little teapot from another little tea set filled with..not tea..but hot chocolate and served with cinnamon toast, warm, fragrant, delectable beyond belief. I think my happy feelings about tea parties spring from those parties at my little blue table and chairs, set on the big back porch under the heavenly scented wisteria vine that climbed and covered one end of the porch. My mother was the sweetest, most thoughtful maid two little girls could have wished for.

Since then. I have been present at many tea parties. Some were very large, very elegant social affairs, intimidating in their elaborate magnificence with uniformed maids, carrying and replenishing heavy silver trays and teapots, tables with fine linens, silver and china, masses of roses as centerpiece. Al the ladies were dressed "to the teeth" in lovely dresses, hats and gloves.(Yes, we really did that) . These would qualify as what our British friends would call high tea, with wonderful, delicate dishes of dainty cakes and sandwiches and desserts. Now these are called TEAS, spelled with all capital letters. Then the open- hour teas so popular for entertaining and honoring special guests, bridal or baby showers. These are very nice but still a bit on the formal side.

And then, there are the small cozy, intimate tea parties with one or two three special people where the warmth of love is greater than the heated teapot sitting close at hand. Little private jokes and secrets and sometimes tears are shed over the delicate cups of steaming liquid. (And whether it really is tea, or coffee or hot chocolate or a diet cola, the atmosphere is the same.) There is the trusting sharing of our most personal self with those special others who will cherish and love and treasure us as we do them. We safely bare our joys and tears, dreams and fears, plans and disappointments.

The Kleenex box is always nearby because sometimes we laugh till we cry, and sometimes we just cry . We hug each other and whisper comforting little words that get lost in love and tears. Sure, the pretty teapot and cups and saucers, the lovely goodies, the flowers, they are nice, but the real beauty of a tea party is the people gathered about the table.

Will you come to my next tea party? I have lovely secrets to share. I'll expect you.

Copyright 2003, Ruth Martin, author. All rights reserved.
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