MY LIFE – Tea Time with the Garden Club Ladies

MY LIFE – Tea Time with the Garden Club Ladies

I have been a tea drinker all my life, but the whole tea party thing was no more than an amorphous concept until about 20 years ago when I experienced my first Afternoon Tea. To say it was a life-changing event would be painting it a bit too purple, but it certainly changed how I viewed entertaining.

Suffice it to say that there is nothing quite like piling dainty pastry morsels and little crustless sandwiches on serving dishes of all kinds and setting the table with small plates and teacups with actual saucers (I am normally more of a mug person) to kick an afternoon gathering of friends into giddy high gear. And after my maiden foray into the English concept of fancy tea at the Four Seasons in Boston, I was off and running with the idea.

My first attempt at it was with my Shower Group, and I pulled out all the stops. It took two full days of prep to carry it off and it was wonderful. Over the years my sisters and I have adopted the idea and ran with it. Tea party bridal showers and baby showers, tea parties for the bowling buddies, the knitters, and the friends. Full out fancy ones and scaled down saner ones, all with a sense of fun and specialness about them.

And so it should come as no surprise that when two ladies I met last year when I had been invited to speak at a meeting of the Cumberland Garden Club expressed an interest in coming by to take a look at my own garden this spring, I immediately thought of tea.

I guess you would have to look even a bit further into my early life to fully understand how my mind was working, starting with the fact that I grew up in a tenement house surrounded by concrete and therefore totally devoid of flowers. Second would be the fact that given the time and circumstances of my youth, the mere words “garden club ladies” invariably brought to mind images of very proper ladies in flowered hats. Inaccurate I know, having actually met the ladies in question, but the very image tickled my warped fancy.

And so when Sandy, who had dropped by a couple months earlier to loan me a book about birds, emailed me to say that she would bring cookies when she and her friend Sheila came for a visit the following week, I said it wouldn’t be necessary. I had already decided to “do tea,” and had it all under control. Not a full out, damn the torpedoes and full-speed ahead, haul out all the fancy dishes event, but a tastefully scaled back and relaxed version of tea.

I ironed the really nice linen tablecloth with matching napkins I had bought years ago at a yard sale (the $10 price sticker was still on it). I set the table with some of the china tea stuff I have acquired over the years, baked my favorite scones and Scottish shortbread cookies, brewed tea with tea bags in pots, and cut blooms from the rhododendron and stuck them in a vase on the table.

I have to tell you, last Tuesday was an absolute blast!

We ate, we drank, we talked, and we laughed. We walked around the yard, talked about flowers and what we all grew. Then we came back inside, ate and drank a bit more, and continued talking. They asked why I had recently missed writing two weeks in a row, which brought us to the subject of computers and the fact that my laptop had stopped speaking to my printer when I switched internet servers last month. Turns out that both of these women are computer people and they insisted that getting my printer up and running would be a piece of cake.

By the time we had been back and forth into the room where the printer is located several times, pulling it out, turning it over, taking pictures of the modem, and “puzzling till our puzzlers were sore,” to quote Dr. Seuss, we had knocked all the corners off the process of getting to know each other and were as comfortable together as old friends.

The printer problem finally solved, I said, “How about another cup of fresh tea? And since you all know that I actually own cups with saucers now, we can push those aside and go for the mugs that hold enough to make it worthwhile.”

As I said, it was a blast. Sheila said I should come to see her garden. I replied, “Just invite me,” and we all agreed we need to do this again sometime soon ... no flowered hats required.

Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.