The Tea Party

By

The Tea Party
The Tea Party

My induction into the world of tea began with a gift from my mother – a beautiful cobalt blue tea set she had purchased on a trip to Japan. The tea set came in a satin-lined white leather box. The cups, saucers and teapot were delicately hand-painted in their rich cobalt blue color with a gold crane and a thin gold line around each rim. I was never quite sure why she purchased the set because the extent of her ownership was transporting it back to the United States, going through customs with it, and then storing it on a shelf in her closet. It had never been used.

Her trip to Japan was one that would have brought excitement to most people, but my mother was newly widowed and her enthusiasm for life had vanished with the death of my father. She was in her mid-forties at the time, and, though she never said it aloud, it was evident that she felt cheated. She made reservations for the trip, alone, with much apprehension.

“Dad left you enough money to travel. Go somewhere, Mom. Meet some new people. Do something nice for yourself. Have some fun. Do something exciting.”

She did not want to go, but she did. With the death of my dad, the life in my mom slowly seeped out of her. Traveling alone in a foreign country made her life even more overwhelming. The most enthusiasm she could muster was over the cobalt blue tea set she had purchased.

“It’s so beautiful,” I said.

“I thought so, too,” she said. “It reminded me of when you were a little girl, and we used to have tea parties. Remember?”

I really did not remember, but I nodded my head anyway. I remembered playing with my cousin’s toy pickup truck and his fire engine, but I did not remember tea parties.

“It’ll be yours someday,” my mother said. “You can have it now if you want.”

“Mom, you should enjoy it now. It’s so pretty. Put it out somewhere so it can be seen. Make tea! Put it in your breakfront. Show it off!”

Instead, the tea set sat in its box on a shelf in her closet for twenty-five years.

Eventually, I moved with my family across the country. My mother visited often when my children were young, less often as they grew to have their own lives and schedules. On one of her many trips, she brought the cobalt blue tea set.

“It matches your home so much better than it does mine,” she said. She was right. “I want you to have it.”

While my mother was there, I left the set out, in its box, with the lid open. I wasn’t sure where to put it and with five cats and two sons, I wanted to be sure to put it where it wouldn’t be broken. I showed it to everyone who came into my home. Eventually, when my mom left, I closed the case and put it up in my cabinet to keep it safe. I was truly afraid to use it. But I loved it nonetheless. I had always been particularly fond of cobalt blue china and knew it was hard to find, especially pieces that lovely. I also knew how difficult the trip to Japan had been for my mother, and though I never told her this – though I wish I had, I am not sure I would attempt a trip by myself if I was in a similar situation.

Maybe it’s part of being an adult, but I wanted to show my mom how much I appreciated the gift that she had transported from Japan to her home and then, many years later, to mine. My plan was to make a delicious tea and to serve it to my mom when she visited the next time. We would have a tea party I really remembered instead of pretending to remember one from my childhood. I was sure my mother would enjoy the effort and appreciate the sentiment.

I experimented with many flavored teas. Though I had been accused of being addicted to diet soda and coffee before this, I suddenly preferred tea to all other drinks. The variety of flavors made it an adventure. Yet, each time I brewed a pot of tea, I could not bring myself to pour the tea into the cobalt blue cups. I was saving the inauguration for my mother’s next visit.

Unfortunately, that never happened. My mother grew too sick to travel and eventually succumbed to heart disease.

I took the tea set down several times after her death and stared at it. Everyone mourns in different ways. I stared at the beautiful tea set and cried. What was it about the tea set? Was it the memory of a tea party my mother had that I could not remember? Was it the effort I put behind my master plan that I could never fulfill? Perhaps it was the one tie my mother wanted to have with me that she felt was missing in her life as I grew up and away from her. With my children growing up and moving away, I was beginning to feel this emptiness as well, a generation later, and I knew somehow the tea set was our bond, even if neither of us could put it into words.

On the day she would have been eighty years old, I brewed a pot of strawberry-kiwi tea, the flavor I felt would most likely be served at a little girl’s tea party – sweet and delicious. I poured the tea into two of the beautiful cobalt cups. I slowly sipped mine, and then I slowly sipped from the cup I had poured for my mom. I rinsed both cups, dried them, and put them back into the satin-lined box.

About this writer

  • The Tea Party

    My induction into the world of tea began with a gift from my mother – a beautiful cobalt blue tea set she had purchased on a trip to Japan. The tea set came in a satin-lined white leather box. The cups, saucers and teapot were delicately hand-painted in their rich cobalt blue color with a gold crane and a thin gold line around each rim. I was never quite sure why she purchased the set because the extent of her ownership was transporting it back to the United States, going through customs with it, and then storing it on a shelf in her closet. It had never been used.

    Her trip to Japan was one that would have brought excitement to most people, but my mother was newly widowed and her enthusiasm for life had vanished with the death of my father. She was in her mid-forties at the time, and, though she never said it aloud, it was evident that she felt cheated. She made reservations for the trip, alone, with much apprehension.

    “Dad left you enough money to travel. Go somewhere, Mom. Meet some new people. Do something nice for yourself. Have some fun. Do something exciting.”

    She did not want to go, but she did. With the death of my dad, the life in my mom slowly seeped out of her. Traveling alone in a foreign country made her life even more overwhelming. The most enthusiasm she could muster was over the cobalt blue tea set she had purchased.

    “It’s so beautiful,” I said.

    “I thought so, too,” she said. “It reminded me of when you were a little girl, and we used to have tea parties. Remember?”

    I really did not remember, but I nodded my head anyway. I remembered playing with my cousin’s toy pickup truck and his fire engine, but I did not remember tea parties.

    “It’ll be yours someday,” my mother said. “You can have it now if you want.”

    “Mom, you should enjoy it now. It’s so pretty. Put it out somewhere so it can be seen. Make tea! Put it in your breakfront. Show it off!”

    Instead, the tea set sat in its box on a shelf in her closet for twenty-five years.

    Eventually, I moved with my family across the country. My mother visited often when my children were young, less often as they grew to have their own lives and schedules. On one of her many trips, she brought the cobalt blue tea set.

    “It matches your home so much better than it does mine,” she said. She was right. “I want you to have it.”

    While my mother was there, I left the set out, in its box, with the lid open. I wasn’t sure where to put it and with five cats and two sons, I wanted to be sure to put it where it wouldn’t be broken. I showed it to everyone who came into my home. Eventually, when my mom left, I closed the case and put it up in my cabinet to keep it safe. I was truly afraid to use it. But I loved it nonetheless. I had always been particularly fond of cobalt blue china and knew it was hard to find, especially pieces that lovely. I also knew how difficult the trip to Japan had been for my mother, and though I never told her this – though I wish I had, I am not sure I would attempt a trip by myself if I was in a similar situation.

    Maybe it’s part of being an adult, but I wanted to show my mom how much I appreciated the gift that she had transported from Japan to her home and then, many years later, to mine. My plan was to make a delicious tea and to serve it to my mom when she visited the next time. We would have a tea party I really remembered instead of pretending to remember one from my childhood. I was sure my mother would enjoy the effort and appreciate the sentiment.

    I experimented with many flavored teas. Though I had been accused of being addicted to diet soda and coffee before this, I suddenly preferred tea to all other drinks. The variety of flavors made it an adventure. Yet, each time I brewed a pot of tea, I could not bring myself to pour the tea into the cobalt blue cups. I was saving the inauguration for my mother’s next visit.

    Unfortunately, that never happened. My mother grew too sick to travel and eventually succumbed to heart disease.

    I took the tea set down several times after her death and stared at it. Everyone mourns in different ways. I stared at the beautiful tea set and cried. What was it about the tea set? Was it the memory of a tea party my mother had that I could not remember? Was it the effort I put behind my master plan that I could never fulfill? Perhaps it was the one tie my mother wanted to have with me that she felt was missing in her life as I grew up and away from her. With my children growing up and moving away, I was beginning to feel this emptiness as well, a generation later, and I knew somehow the tea set was our bond, even if neither of us could put it into words.

    On the day she would have been eighty years old, I brewed a pot of strawberry-kiwi tea, the flavor I felt would most likely be served at a little girl’s tea party – sweet and delicious. I poured the tea into two of the beautiful cobalt cups. I slowly sipped mine, and then I slowly sipped from the cup I had poured for my mom. I rinsed both cups, dried them, and put them back into the satin-lined box.

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2 Responses to “The Tea Party”

  1. Brendon says:

    Felice, A very touching piece. A little different than your usual, but shows your depth as a writer.

  2. Michael says:

    Felice,

    I just love the way you write. Great style and always a subject that we all can relate to.

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