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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Miss Manners at the Tea Table

The tea party started out harmlessly enough. Disguised as an effort to appease my daughters, it was also designed to keep me from going nuts.

I had been scheduled as a keynote speaker at a large Ladies’ Tea. Somehow my girls got the idea that they would be accompanying me.

No can do.

All things being equal, that might be a possibility. Since very few things in life were equal, it was not.

I had to break the news to them.

“Listen, girls, you don’t want to sit there for hours, and have to behave yourselves, and chew with your mouths closed, and not reach over top of each other to grab more food, and make pleasant conversation, and sit up straight, and not shout, and smile at the other ladies while you sip your chai…. Did I mention you’d have to behave for hours on end?”

For them, that sounded strangely reminiscent of every meal of the day at our house…. But here was the selling point.

“Anyway, how about we have a tea party of our own? Just the three of us Little Ladies?” I raised my eyebrows to Mashenka and Sashenka and they giggled with glee. They knew that I always made good on my promises, usually over-delivering and the two quickly acquiesced. Anything that had them as the center of attention had to be good.

I found myself inbetween two major deadlines with not much time for frivolity and fun, so I set the date rapidly as though throwing knives at a spinning circus pinwheel, my own schedule in danger of dying on the board. I had to move quickly, lest I felt the urge to renege.

“Three o’clock this afternoon,” I announced at breakfast one day. “The pleasure of your presence is sought for our Little Ladies’ Tea Party.”

The boys groaned.

“I’m not coming,” Petya declared.

“And that would mean more delicate dainties for us,” I smiled imperiously.

“Food?!” he exclaimed.

“Well, tea involves much more than tea!” I informed him. “Ladies, shall we extend an invitation to the Gentlemen?”

“Up to you, Mama,” the girls concurred, appearing to want them to come, but not if all their food would be gobbled by these Grinch-like guests.

“In that case, Gentlemen, you may join us at 3:00 p.m.”

The girls and I Dressed for the Event. The boys did not. These were among the great mysteries of life and due to the fact that it was not a major holiday, I decided not to make any undue demands on our dining companions. In some circles, tsk-tsk, khaki pants and polo shirts would be considered Dressing….

The table was set for the appointed hour, with various teas, tea cakes, and triangular, crustless tea sandwiches assembled.

We had practiced the art of Genteel Conversation, not to mention Manners, when requesting items be passed. Apparently it was all for naught.

After the first minute, “Would you pass the sugar, please?” a certain percentage reverted back to the Russian “Moznah… etah?” and a jab with the finger in that direction.

So here we were seated, late in the afternoon, at an event where we didn’t need the extreme pressure of Dignified Dining. It was not a State Dinner, no prying eyes, other than my own, were watching from on high. It was supposed to be Fun, a word not uppermost in my vocabulary, but necessary for any child. Today, I’d take what I could get. Which is what the boys were doing at every opportunity, food being packed onto petite plates.

“And so, Gentlemen, what are your plans for the upcoming season of summer? Will you be following your educational pursuits, or spending it at leisure?” I tossed the verbal volley their way.

They didn’t want to play. They would rather play, “Who can stuff their face most full of tea cakes without having squirrel cheeks, stains down their shirts, or displaying any other type of outward evidence of gluttony which would push Mama over the edge…. The girls giggled at every antic, while I, control freak that I am, suppressed the urge to gag. Oh, to have such a willing audience.

Everyone sampled several teas. I kept the hot water coming, pouring with great ceremony for each seated guest. So, we were not being served from my grandmother’s samovar, but there were doilies and silver and a few other tokens of the Nobility. Teatime that day was a nice pause to a high-pressured life, an opportunity to nod and smile at those youthful faces upturned toward mine, anxious to please, but never quite remembering how.

The fact that we were Together and healthy, happy and having Tea, was all that mattered for those few moments suspended in time. We may need to do this again.

 

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