Back in the Victorian or Edwardian eras, an invitation to an afternoon tea was a sign of being invited into a very significant segment of society, as teas were reserved for very special occasions.
My sisters decided that my Mom’s 98th birthday was indeed a very special occasion and they set about planning an afternoon tea, involving as many generations of the family as possible in the planning and subsequent implementation of the event.
Round tables were set with linen table cloths and each one was centered by a three-tiered serving dish displaying homemade sandwiches, scones and special cakes.
Clotted cream and homemade jam were available for spreading on the scones — everything made by the family.
Fine china was on display and any pattern ever produced was set out for the guests.
Cupcakes, tea and coffee were served by granddaughters and great granddaughters dressed appropriately in summer dresses and shiny black shoes. The grandsons and great grandsons were required to remove their baseball caps. All electronic devices were turned off for the afternoon.
The guests represented the 98 years of the guest of honour’s life, and included children, nieces, cousins and close friends.
Some of the relatives came from the same home town in Saskatchewan and some guests had long ties with the church congregation or were former neighbours.
It wasn’t long until the tables began to fill up with memories as stories of snow storms and prairie dust mixed with recollections of church dinners and bazaars or neighbourhood corn roasts.
Generations mixed and stories were passed down with the younger ones listening in amazement to explanations of party lines and hand-me-downs.
As the family photos were taken, my mother was the centrepiece of each sitting, remarking how special it was to see the five generations that had sprung from a kiss on a small bridge in Edam.
By request, no one bought presents. Our gift was just to be there.
Also on display was my mother’s childhood teapot, which she had used as a little girl.
Others at the party recalled sharing tea with friends or dolls or Teddy bears.
Later, as adults, having someone drop in for tea and biscuits was always a welcome respite from housework and a chance to catch up on what was happening around town.
It doesn’t always have to be an expensive catered affair; dropping in for tea will do just fine.
At least that’s what McGregor says.
The day has stretched to afternoon,
Here, listening to a Chopin tune,
The water’s on to boil;
So nice of you for stopping here,
Your presence always brings such cheer,
And grants me pause from toil.
To share a cup of tea together,
To talk of children, husbands, weather,
Is a blessing to my day,
You are ever welcome at my door,
Ahh, it’s ready, shall I pour?
Tea doth soothe the cares away!