Tea for Three

Yesterday morning Beth posted a photo to Facebook with this caption: “A tea party is happening at my house. The 4 year old girl kind, not the political kind. In some ways just as incomprehensible to me.”

The tea party was weeks in the making. Not in the planning so much as we just threw it together at the last minute, but in the scheduling. Even though I had restricted the guest list to two friends (the same two who were unable to attend June’s birthday party, which is how I got her to agree to such a small party), it still took weeks to find a mutually agreeable date. That it ended up in mid-September was a plus, really, because the party happened to fall on a rainy and unseasonably cold morning, the kind of morning when hot tea seemed appealing.

I’d promised to bake for this party, but I had the revisions on the digestive brochure due Monday so we went with store-bought treats, but only after agreeing to bakery cookies instead of the Pepperidge Farm sampler I had in mind. Beth and June went to buy the cookies (flower-shaped, with pink sugar sprinkles) on Saturday morning. They also picked up some Little Citizen’s Herb tea (http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/beverages-for-kids-republic-of-tea-little-citizens-herb-teas-for-children), which they had previously noticed while grocery shopping, and a baguette and we were in business.

Sunday morning we cleared off the low round table in the living room where the Playmobile castle and some other toys are usually housed. I gave June a choice of several old sheets to use as a tablecloth and she went with the Kermit the frog sheets I slept on as a child (okay, also as teenager—I took them to college with me). Then I asked her to go pick a bouquet from the back yard. She returned with a handful of purple thistles and instead of putting them in a little cup or glass as we usually do, Beth actually dug out a small glass vase. I asked if June would like a zinnia for her bouquet (she’s been wanting to pick them all summer and I keep saying no) and she said, “Yes!” This just kept getting better and better, she seemed to be thinking. While we were out there, I snipped a small bloom off one of the sunflowers as well and we brought both flowers inside. Next we set the table with her new pink and green tin tea set and some princess napkins left over from her birthday party. June set the cookies on the napkins because the plates were too small to hold cookies and bread at once. I buttered two slices of baguette for each girl, put one on each plate and the rest on the serving tray and the table was ready.

June had decided ahead of time that she wanted to wear her yellow dress with the daisies my mom bought her this summer. Due to the chilly weather, we put a white sweater on over it and I suggested tights. I had white ones in mind to go with the pale dress and sweater, but June thought the red ones were more striking, which I should have predicted. Last spring she started to develop some interesting ideas about color-pairings. So, anyway, she wore the red tights, along with a pair of shiny red Mary Janes (or Mary Jeans, as she calls them).

Noah was getting dressed at the same time. I saw him grab a pair of jeans and t-shirt so I asked him if he wanted to dress up a little for June’s party. Sure, he said. He kept the jeans but swapped the shirt for a short-sleeve orange plaid button-down. When asked, Beth announced she would dress up for June’s wedding but not until then.

I let June choose between two outfits for me. She nixed the brown velvet skirt and selected the long pale green cotton skirt with the blue turtleneck and the blue and green vest I wore at Beth’s and my commitment ceremony and which still gets trotted out occasionally for special occasions.

Now the table was set and everyone was in their finery, but it was only 9:30 and the party didn’t start until 10:00. Beth was busy with some last-minute cleaning and re-assembling the fairy princess tent that Noah had broken a week or so ago, so I took June to the computer and we watched clips from Disney princess movies (one of her favorite online pastimes) until it was almost time for her guests to arrive. Noah was composing a song on his keyboard he would set on a continual loop during the party and making a welcome sign for the front door.

Finally the Ground Beetle (a.k.a Red Gingko) and the Toad (a.k.a Yellow Tulip) arrived. They sat right down at the table and got to work on the food and drink. For a while I was kept busy pouring water, apple juice and tea, and fetching more bread, but eventually everyone had what she wanted and I sat at the dining room table with Noah where he ate his share of cookies and bread and butter. From the next room, I could hear the Toad declare the tea “scrumptious.”

When all the food was gone, the girls got up and headed for the dress up bin. In some ways this was an extension of the previous day, when the Ground Beetle’s parents hosted a back-to-school party for the whole class. The Ground Beetle has an extensive collection of dress-up clothes. Twelve of the seventeen Tracks were in attendance, most with older or younger siblings along, and for three hours almost all the kids were old enough to walk were trooping up and down the stairs, each time in a different costume. It was amazing.

Anyway, the girls made do with our more meager share of costumes. The Toad had arrived in a Snow White dress, which she shucked off to get into June’s fairy skirt and wings. The Ground Beetle asked if she could wear the Snow White dress and the Toad graciously agreed, adding, “but you can’t take it home.” June kept her clothes on but she did add her crown with the pink ribbons to her ensemble.

Soon all three girls and Noah were in the fairy princess tent where he read them Dora’s Fairy Tale Adventure. “I love that one,” the Ground Beetle sighed before he started. Earlier she had been examining June’s extensive collection of Dora books a mite enviously.

And so it went. Basically the kids played independently for the rest of the party, which lasted until 11:30 and I actually got to read the Sunday paper. Most of the time Noah played with them, performing magic tricks and helping them organize a wedding. (I never quite understood who was marrying whom.) We must have picked exactly the right ending time, though, because just before 11:30, I noticed June’s guests were in the tent and June was nowhere to be seen. I found her in my bedroom, looking at a book. I suggested she play with her friends but she said she’d rather I read her a book. Okay, I said, but in the living room where the other girls could listen if they liked. The Ground Beetle’s dad came to fetch her before we got started and then I settled on the couch with June and the Toad to read. Before long, the Toad’s mom and brother were there and the party was over. The Toad cried when it was time to leave. (Weeping at the close of festivities: your sign of a successfully hosted affair.)

And so ended June’s tea party. I think it must have been a lot more fun than the tea party rally outside the Capitol the same day.