Every year for I'm not sure how many years now, Richard's mom helps put on a play at an elementary school in her area. She's actually the director (and Richard's youngest sister has been doing a majority of the choreography for the past few years), so it's the sort of thing that becomes all consuming for their family at this time each year.
Richard's aunt came out for the play, since this is a yearly event and Richard's mom has been involved in it for quite some time. So since she was out for a visit, and since the rest of us females in the family were all available the same weekend, and since the Almost-Twin's maid-of-honor-to-be was also available it suddenly because prime time to do a little estrogen-soaked female bonding. And what better way to do that than for all of us ladies to ditch our guys and go out for tea.
Most of the group had been there before (almost exactly one year ago today, and for precisely the same reason, in fact – well, except for the whole bridal part), so we knew what to expect, but it was a surprise for at least a few of the group, and there were enough new things to find and admire amid the clutter of beautiful decorations and things for sale that we all spent a bit of time oohing and aahing as we were led to our table. And then it was time to select our tea and our lunches from the lovely menu that is full of too many delicious sounding choices, and then nothing else to do but sit back and nibble ginger cookies with lemon curd and wait to be served.
I tend not to like strong tea, so the flavor I (and several others at the table) chose was perfect – an Apple and Caramel blend that was very delicate and not at all overpowering like some teas can be. We chatted our way through many pots of tea and plates of tiny little tea sandwiches made of impossibly thin slivers of cucumber or tomato or roast beef or some other delicious concoction. There were scones and tiny little quiches that provided only one creamy bite each, and compact potpies full of cheese and broccoli or turkey and vegetables, and everything was so very good. And then once the plates were cleared away they brought us goblets of water and plates of dessert – tiramisu and little selections of petit fours and perhaps best of all, slices of dense caramel covered apple tart.
We talked incessantly. We laughed and teased each other, especially the youngest in the group, Richard's niece. We would occasionally, and as discreetly as possible, watch the tea party for two that was unfolding on the other side of our room, where two little girls dressed in their most grown-up dresses and clutching purses importantly to their laps, drank tea from delicate china cups and ate their sandwiches and simply shone with the heady honor of being considered grown up enough to do this all on their own. Oh, there was the occasional lapse in ladylike behavior when one of them would curl her legs underneath her in her chair, or when they would lean across the table to share some girlish confidence and break into giggles. But they were, above everything, mostly little ladies, and if their mother popped her head into the room from time to time just to check on them, they never seemed to notice it. We put their ages at perhaps 8 or 10 – just the right age for little girls to have tea parties that do not involve fake tea and flower sandwiches, but that still just might require one's fanciest hat anyway, just in case.
Stuffed from the hours-long lunch, my younger sister-in-law and I elected to walk the few miles home while the rest of them drove. It was the perfect sunny day for such a walk and it was easy to pretend that this sort of weather might be waiting for me back home, even though it has been gray and dreary and wet far more often than not of late in the Sacramento valley.
Later in the evening, after a chance to curl up on the sofa and work on my knitting while chatting with Richard's aunt, we set off for the elementary school where the play was held. We wandered around outside for a bit and watched a horde of blue t-shirted small people darting around setting up tables for intermission refreshments, or clutching handfuls of programs to hand out at the door, and then we found our seats and got to practice our very best posture in order to somehow see around the tall people who inevitably are always seated in front of us, and then we watched the play.
This year they did Scheherazade, which is a rather sanitized version of 1001 Arabian Nights, wherein a young woman ends up marrying a king who is in the middle of a snit where he marries women and then kills them every single night. She escapes only by telling him stories, but leaving each story's ending til the next night so he is forced to allow her to live. In the original tale, it takes her 3 solid years of telling stories before the king finally decides that he's no longer going to threaten her with death every night of their married life. In the play it only took three nights, during which the king was somehow magically transformed into a woman and Scheherezade proves once and for all who really has the power in the relationship (it wouldn't be the king) and during which a lot of small children did a lot of singing and dancing, mostly together and mostly in tune, and when the play was over we cheered and applauded because for little kids, they did a pretty good job. And besides, any ten-year old boy who is brave enough to dress up as a girl and be romanced on stage in front of his peers deserves as much cheering and applause as he can get.