Thursday, April 24, 2008

Discovering Tea

My family heirlooms are not what you'd call "typical." At least, they don't seem typical to me. When I think about other people's heirlooms I imagine some of the pieces I've lusted over in the antique store that made me wish someone in my family had saved something like them for me. I don't have many of that sort of heirloom but what I do have is very precious to me, and I hope, will be to my children and grandchildren in the future. Today I want to tell you about one of my dearest family heirlooms and a new family tradition which are related both to one another and, in a round-about way, to TEA.

*Photo above by Whitney Ensom

Let me first explain our new tradition. It all started with Rachel's tea-party-themed birthday party last month. It was fun to plan, the event itself was a blast and it was deemed a grand success by all. My youngest sister, Laura Joy, was here to help with bathing the birthday girl, helping party guests choose what would go on their hat and then washing up the dishes while I said good-bye to each little guest. She loaded the dishwasher but there were still dishes left that wouldn't fit so she hand-washed the tea cups and saucers, turning each one upside down on a towel to dry.

I'm embarassed to say that these tea cups and saucers were STILL THERE the next afternoon, looking so pretty laid out all in a row, just as I imagine the sideboard of a Victorian lady's kitchen might look after a sweet tea party. That's when inspiration struck. I had been casting about for some time for a way to spend time with my girls in a positive way that would be conducive to conversation and that could become normal in a habitual sort of way, hopefully lasting well into the days of later girlhood when open conversation between girls and their mothers can become rather strained. The tea cups and saucers were there, and so was the I dove in.

"Would you girls like to have a tea party?" I asked my daughters. Their eyes lit up.

Since that day we have missed only about 4 days of our now-daily "tea party." That means we have already had a couple dozen of these informal but precious affairs and it has become, really and truly, a habit. I hesitated to tell you about it here on the blog right at first, just in case we fell off and stopped doing it. But it has continued and I don't see it stopping.

Here's what happens. Miss Emily walks in from school about 2:35. We live across the street from the school and I could very nearly throw her into the schoolyard from my own yard so it is a very nice, safe arrangement. One of us, usually Emily says, "Let's have our tea party!" (which is so much nicer to hear than her former whined, "I'm huuuuuungry....."). I ask for the t.v. to be turned off and the girls to wash their hands while I gather up the tea things. Since I got my Vintage Party Swap package from Natalea we've gotten even a little bit more fancy, but our tea parties always involve a real tea cup and saucer for each person and a plate of snacks for us to share. I didn't intend for this, but it has become a very fun, relaxed way to learn good manners! We talk about "tea party manners" and have fun reminding one another to keep our feet off our chairs, not talk with our mouths open and say "excuse me!" when burping. We all make fun of Andrew, who is 18 months, and MUST attend our tea parties but who does very "un-tea-party-ish" things like throwing food, yelling and putting his feet on the table. The girls of course think this is hysterical and enjoy telling him how "rude" he is, which he of course giggles at. We ask one another how our days have been, hear stories of Emily's school adventures and just spend time talking with one another. I had no idea how wonderful this would be and how much the girls would enjoy it...or how much I would enjoy it. "Tea" is of course just juice or water in a tea cup but one of the girls acted surprised the other day when they saw me putting water in their tea cup. "I thought it was tea!" she said, which shows just how magical this whole thing really is.
And then, just the other day, I found the card. If you were sitting here beside me while I tell you about this, you would notice me getting a little teary at this point in the story.

We are still bringing things in from our garage that we have had in storage from the move, including some boxes we had on high shelves in the old house and just pulled down, loaded up and put in the new garage without looking through them. But now we are bringing these boxes in, going through them to see if we want to save the contents, and finding new homes for things here in the house. We have found all sorts of fun "treasures," as you can imagine, but one of the more special finds was an envelope that said "To My Darling Daughter" in my handwriting.

I opened it up of course and read the card. The date on the card is 1995 and I wrote it as an almost-freshman in college while on a family vacation in Monterey. The "darling daughter" I refer to in this card was of course only in my dreams at that point. But now, in 2008, I tear up when I read it, because now I am the mother to not one but two darling girls. Here's just a snippet, which of course gave me chills when I read it. It was written by a very young 18-year-old who was no doubt idealizing motherhood, having "baby cravings" and feeling emotional about her future. But it's me.

The card makes reference to a miniature teaset I bought that day in 1995, with my then-fictitious daughter in mind. I found that teaset right before Rachel's party in February and though I couldn't remember at the time where I'd gotten it, I remembered that it was significant in some way. It turned out to be perfect for the "doll table" at Rachel's party, which you may remember from in these photos from the party.

So when I found the card, I realized how very special this little tea set is and I've displayed it on our side table in the dining room. And though it's precious to me, it's also fair game for little people to play with, since that is what it was intended for, after all! You can see from this photo, which I SWEAR I didn't stage, that even Andrew understands what a teacup is for! In the middle of playing with trucks he went and got this tea cup (and saucer!), brought it over to the coffee table and promptly began having his own tea party! Needless to say, I grabbed the camera as quickly as I could!! I promised more posts about "family heirlooms" this week and this may be the only one for this week. We've got a house full of sickies here, unfortunately, and blogging may not happen again for a few days. But I promise to get back to this subject next week, since I have lots more to show and tell!

In the meantime, grab a couple tea cups, someone you love and start a tradition...

p.s. Look at this sweet little graphic from Heather of Pretty Petals! LOVE IT!


Heather ~ Pretty Petals said...

Cheryl, what an absolutly adorable post. It is SUCH a wonderful thing you are doing! It is so easy to get caught up in the day and not take time to share in these little things that mean so much to our little ones isn't it?

I can't believe that gorgeous card!! wow!!! This post has me all teary eyed. lol the idea behind your story reminds me of a little graphic I created for the blog tea party... here is the link to the photo. You are welcome to use it if you like! xoxo Heather

Victorian Lady said...

Thank you SO much for posting this! I take my girls to tea, but never thought of having it after school! I too get that I'm hungry makes me want to have the cups hanging, ready and waiting! Such a sweet story...I believe you are the great mom you thought you'd be! :)


Alison Gibbs said...

Hi Cheryl, what fun. It doesn't matter if the Tea Party tradition doesn't continue because it is something they will remember forever. Such a wonderful time bonding with your 3 little cherubs.

RachaelEnsomFrance said...

Oh this post made me smile for a very long while! How precious that you wrote that card to your future daughter(s)! I love it. I love that you have tea parties with them. That is soo special!

Ele at abitofpinkheaven said...

Cheryl, tea parties are also a tradition in my family. It started with my grandmother and I. She would make miniature breads and buns. She also used real tea (which was mostly milk) and then sugar lumps. Now, for tea parties every day the sugar might get to be a little much, but rolls with jam and butter, yum! I passed on this tradition with my daughter! I even bought old prom dresses and a wedding dress because as you know, the dressing up part is just as important. Little boys must be also be invited to tea parties, but any left over food just might be picked up with a tractor and put in the dump truck! In the case of one of my sons, there were several dinosaurs that used to attend tea parties! I just love your stories. You are wonderful! Thanks for the trip down memory lane, now if I'd just get some grandchildren....hmmm!

Little Pink Studio said...

What a sweet, sweet post!
I love this tradition you have started w/ your daughters, and I love that you had bought a tea set for a little girl you would have one day!
You're such a wonderful Mom!
~Cerri xoxo

Lori said...

Cheryl, the tea party tradition that you started with your girls is adorable and sweet...LOVE the picture of your little man having his spot of tea, that is so so so cute!!!

~Becca~Bluebird Rose said...

Cheryl, what a beautiful and touching post! Thank you for sharing this with us today!
I especially enjoyed the photo of Andrew taking tea! Too cute! :)

Heidi ( said...

That letter is so sentimental! You are the perfect mommy, you've got the "tea party" down pat, including teaching your son the fine maner of lifting his pinkie finger as he sips his tea! SO cute!

mimi said...

Hi Cheryl,
I just love today's post!! How precious are those memories made with out children. I can still remember my mom have a "rainy" day tea party with my sister and I. On rainy days when we could not run around outside and play we would have a tea party on the porch. I carried on this tradition with my son when he was little and now onto the two sweet little girls I babysit. You are right--it sure is fun to spend that time talking and listening to our children share with us what is important to them. Treasure your sweet little ones--I know they will treasure these memories.
Hope you all are feeling well soon.

Anonymous said...

Oh goodness, as one can imagine I found great significance in your post....

I too always dreamt of having a daughter. At the age of five or six I was already dreaming up names for my future daughter.

I have been blessed with both a daughter and a son and get such joy out of seeing them play with my childhood dolls and tea cups.

And, indeed, we often have tea parties at out house too. I thought I was the only one who did that.

Of course mommy hosts tea parties for soooo many children-- how could I leave out my own little ones?

I so loved the pictures!! PLEASE keep them coming. I feel as if I found a long lost sister:)

For those of you searching for more "tea party inspiration," please view the photo gallery of my tea party website:

Thanks so much for warming my heart!! Britta Lee

Just Between Us Girls said...

Dear Cheryl,
As always you blog is incredible.
I love the tea party idea and will practice with Ariana and Anna when they are here next week.

Can't wait!! Also I love the fact that you wrote a letter to y our future daughter. How precious you are. You are such a darling.

Niesz Vintage Home said...

Well, That has got to be the SWEETEST thing I've read in a long time.

How wonderful that even as an 18yr old, you were a thoughtful and caring (future) mom.

Kimberly :)

She'sSewPretty said...

That was a wonderful post! What a sweet tradition to start with your daughter. My daughter, my mom and all of my sister-in-laws are going to the Tea house here for Mother's Day. I think it might be the start of a new tradition for us.

Pat Winter said...

Oh how I loved reading about your tea parties with your girls. Your letter gave me chills and tears.
That has always been a dream of mine.To have daughters and frilly teas.
I wasn't blessed with daughters however I have one son who is now graduating from college but when he was small we would have tea together...of course without the frills, but it was still special to me. He still drinks tea today and when home on visits he asks me for tea. My heart sings each time knowing he may still remember our tea times together. Thanks for your post. said...

How sweet ! This is a tradition I am hoping to start with my little grandbaby too. She is still at the pretend stage of playing tea party, I can't wait till we can sit at the table with goodies and learn manners like you are. What priceless memories your girls will have.

Cathy ~ Tadpoles and Teacups said...

Now that's probably the best idea I've heard of in a while!! And what a wonderful memory you are building for your children.
(And the letter is amazing.)


Hi Cheryl,
I felt so emotional then reading this lovely were meant to be a mommy thats for sure and a lovely one at that.
I think your children are the "Cutest" all of them are so like you Cheryl, especially the girls.
Your little boy is adorable,I love to see children Play and get dirty LOL.

Sounds like you have lots of fun at those tea partys too...
I am a Huge Tea drinker guess its a British thing but it has to be in a Fine bone china cup :O)or it doesn't taste right.
There is an old fashioined Tea shop just opened in the village where I live,they wear the traditional costumes when they serve tea and scones...and there are so many lovely peices of china. I think I will take some photo's next time I go in and I will send them to you..
Chrissy xoxox

Allison said...

Hey there Cheryl! Glad to see you back. I am trying to catch up with everything!

Cece Marie said...

Cheryl! Your post has left me so mushy and sentimental (in a good way!) Ohhhhh! I'm at loss for words with how sweet it all is. How inspiring! Seriously! I have this romantic vision of how I want my life to be and you know, reality gets in the way. I am looking for ways to make my somewhat humble life more well, romantic and special. And I think a tradition of afternoon tea is such a delightful and perfect start! I don't have any little girls (yet!) but nonetheless, I am going to start this little habit right now! Why not make every day special right! :)

Victorian Lady said...

Hey Cheryl! :) I wanted you to know I took your advice...and posted about it and you too on my blog! Thanks again! :)