Okay, we’re back.
I use the third person royally because I actually live alone, not counting the three cats to whom I pay rent. However I am more introverted than not and I feel like I almost died of people this past week. I ate lunches, dinners, and high teas such as I don’t believe ever existed in England until Americans discovered petit fours, called them British, and began making money by putting them on a plate.
The first time I was in England, in the 1970’s, a cup a tea was called for after a walk, a bath, a stint in the garden, after having gone up the road to the village shop to pick up the load of bread one had ordered the day before, or after two hours had gone by, whatever came first. One could go out for a cream tea which was tea with scones, clotted cream, butter and jam; or tea and cake. One can always get a decent piece of cake in England as long as there is a cake to cut. Or one had tea, the meal, which was essentially what Americans might call a light supper.
Let me drop the royal third person and the literary second person and cut to America of the present day where persons of both sexes and all ages are democratically addressed as “you guys.”
This past week, I drank a lot of tea.
Anna and Julia and I went out for our 11th annual Christmas tea. Anna and Julia are sisters who took piano lessons from me for years while they were growing up. One winter, I ran a contest: I would take out for hot chocolate whoever learned the most carols in their Christmas books by the 20th of December. Anna and Julia outstripped every other student by at least half a dozen carols. I took them to Starbucks on Phinney Ridge.
They won the contest the following year. I took them to what was then the Library Café in Crown Hill for high tea.
I discontinued the contest but the three of us continued our holiday tradition. For the next two years we went to the Queen Mary teas rooms in the University District. Year five, I took them to Snohomish for high tea at Piccadilly Circus. Year six, we visited the British Pantry in Redmond for what was probably the most bona fide of high teas because it was more of a light supper.
We were running out of new places to go when we found our home. For the past 5 years, we have settled into the sofas around the fireplace at the Sorrento Hotel’s Hunts Club and luxuriated in the elegant surroundings while consuming the same menu (egg, chicken, and cuke sandwiches; scones, tarts, chocolates, eclairs, a single blueberry and one strawberry ) and catching up on the year’s news.
This past fall, Anna was doing a semester abroad in Chile and Julia was in her first year at M.I.T. I had thought we might be skyping our tea this year but we all made it. None of us are currently eating meat, and Anna and I are off sugar so we didn’t get the usual outlay for three but the company was delicious as always.
The day after the Sorrento Hotel tea, Anna (Western/Fairhaven) was back at my house with four other young (liberal arts) college women: Neah (Gonzaga), Katie (Whitman), Lucy (Macalester) and Riley(Linfield). These young women all took piano lessons from me at about the same time. We have been getting together once or twice a year for tea and sugar since their last years in high school. I served tea, orange bread, cranberry bread, fudge and other chocolates, nuts in shells, and veggies and dip which Anna brought. Also they ate the last of the Tiddly Reindeers from my cousins in England.
When I am with these women, I love to sit back and listen to the gossip which I (uncharacteristically) keep to myself. I would never do anything that might dry up my sources so I am not going to repeat anything juicy.
I hosted one other tea this year. My friends, Chris and Dee, came on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Chris is a tenor in both my choirs, and a fabulous cook. She was a Russian translator while in the army and is a CERT trainer now. We were trying to think of a tagline for her since this is now the second blog of mine in which she has appeared, but I have decided she’s basically unclassifiable.
Her partner, Dee, has a magnet on the refrigerator which says: I missed church because I was off practicing witchcraft and becoming a lesbian. That’s an apt tagline for Dee. I only wish I could claim authorship. But truly, both of them are unclassifiable.
Chris and Dee’s love for their three Chinook dogs (Starfire, Indigo, and Willow) cannot be quantified. I shamelessly suck up to the dogs. Starfire was my first important conquest and now I am oiling my way into Willow’s heart. Indigo needs no oiling; more often than not, she needs to be fended off.
Last summer I did a painting of my friends’ Chinooks. I was so excited with how it turned out, I told them about it in July.
“I have your Christmas present already! So we have to stay friends until Christmas,” I said.
Chris flipped through her calendar, “So when can we cross you off?” she asked.
On the afternoon of the 24th, Chris and Dee looked at the painting for a long time.
Chris looked up. “We’re giving you an extension,” she said.
May we all receive extensions in the new year!