"Find yourself a cup; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things." -Saki
To my utter delight, I spent my birthday this year with the Townsend girls, my very oldest friends. (We go back to birth- a length of history I would challenge anyone to beat). To celebrate we went out for afternoon tea- all nine of us- our two mothers, their four girls, and my two sisters and I.
We spent the morning ironing our clothes (particularly feminine for the occasion)- doing our make-up- taking last minute pictures. My little sister was particularly tickled in anticipation and told us with wide eyes- "We should pretend we're from England. From ancient times- before the revolution. And we should be very stiff and speak in English accents."
We went to a lovely tea shop- full of rose-china, linens, accessories, and satchels of tea. We were seated at two tables outside- next to the stain-glass windows and charming wooden-cottage doors. The tables were bedecked with flowers and lovely china, with pink napkins in flowered napkin-holders. Not far off- three older ladies looked up from their tea to giggle and wave at us and ask what the occasion was. The charm of the atmosphere was contagious. (What is it in a woman- that blooms in the presence of beauty- and is ever seeking to recreate it around her?) We chose from a vast tea menu two pots of tea to start off with (Dutchess Delight- which was a coconut, lemon, kiwi combo- Vanilla and Pieces- and later we had a mango tea and a blueberry tea)- and then adjourned to the dressing corner where we picked out hats.
What is a tea-party without hats?
Bonnets and boaters! Cloches and cocktails! Straw and felt! We had heaps of fun trying them all on and each choosing one to fit our outfit. I ended up with a wide-brimmed white hat- with a very coquettish netted veil. I found a pair of purple gloves to match my dress- but I ended up taking them off as they seriously interfered with eating.
Soon our tea came- and then our food. We supped on five different kinds of tea sandwiches- pesto and cranberry and humus and ham and cucumber- of that feminine shape and size that would make men shudder and despair of ever being truly satisfied. Next we had fruit and followed by scones with clotted cream, preserves, and lemon-curd. We finished off with strawberry shortcake (mine had a candle in it- upon which I wished).
As to our conversation, well, I shall not betray the confidence of that intimate circle by relating to you our numerous topics- or the smiles exchanged or the jokes shared and giggled over. No, for I hold the confidings shared by an entirely female circle sacred, and I could not tell you of them any more than I could offend the delicacy of my fair companions by relating to you just how many cups of tea each of us ladies consumed- imbued, as they were- with many slips of the sugar spoon and much cream besides. But I can tell you that there was joy- and joy abounding.
As three hours came to a close (you can imagine how much tea and talking filled those hours)- we perused the tea-shop- returning our hats to their hat-stands and fingering the linens for sale. There were three table-clothes purchased. One- a lovely paisley pattern of deep reds, oranges, and black- which, with my propensity towards anything Indian, I was immediately drawn to. Samantha, my darling friend, got it for me for my birthday. (Just the thought makes me smile.)
And then the antique store! More hats! More china! More linens! And cookery and table-ware besides. (We did not emerge unscathed. I believe there was at least one bracelet and exactly four silver napkin holders purchased.)
Five hours from when we set out- we returned home- weary from happiness. I can't think of a better way than to have celebrated my birthday. No tea could have been made any sweeter- for I shared it with the sweetest of company.
*Pictures by Madalynn Townsend. Used by permission.