This I Believe

Christina - Arlington, Virginia
Entered on April 26, 2007

This I believe….I believe in the magic of tea parties and so does the librarian at the school where I work. Nearly every Friday you can visit our school library and peek in on what Mary calls her “fancy tea parties.” Every class in the school, from kindergarten to fifth grade, gets a once yearly invitation to drink tea from china tea cups and sit at library tables transformed into a kind of low key tearoom chic, set with paper doily placemats and small flower arrangements. It’s a very special day and somehow kids who can’t sit still to listen to a story seem to have been sprinkled with tea party fairy dust that puts them on their best behavior. They put napkins in their laps and pass a plate of oreo cookies, the cream pitcher, and the bowl of sugar cubes. Mary comes around and pours tea from a blue and white teapot with the grace of a Japanese Geisha while Mozart plays in the background. The kids count the M&M’s in their paper candy cups and carefully watch the sugar cubes dissolve in the hot tea while they discuss which spoon and teacup each person is using. Mary has an assortment of both brought to her over the years by grateful parents, students, and other teachers. Without really knowing what is happening, these kids are practicing and learning the art of polite conversation.

As a child, I was an ardent tea party hostess myself. I had a mixed set of chipped china child’s size tea pots, silverware, tea cups and saucers. (I was the youngest of three girls so my toys were usually the leftovers.) I regularly served watered down coca cola and vanilla wafers to my friends, my sisters, my mom or dad, but more often to my dolls and, even my dog, on occasion. I often had to provide the polite conversation on all sides of the table. All this tea party practice has helped me throughout my life. I’m a good listener and I understand the role that “small talk” plays in making the other person comfortable before one gets to the more important conversations.

I’m showing my age when I say that I grew up in a time when being on one’s best behavior was a common expectation. Now we live in a world in which every day is casual Friday and being on one’s best behavior is, like wearing a tie, relegated to weddings and funerals. Most kids today rarely get the opportunity to see it. TV, video games, and the news devote much more time to bad behavior. I believe that the lives of the kids at our school are enriched immeasurably by their tea party experiences. I notice they sit up a little straighter (best behavior does that to a person) and they feel a little more secure in their ability to function in our increasingly complex society.

I feel sure the world would be a better place if our leaders were required to drop in on one of Mary’s Friday afternoon fancy tea parties. They could use a refresher course in polite conversation and best behavior with a small dose of fairy dust thrown in for good measure. I believe in the magic of tea parties and you can too…just come on over…Mary can always use another adult or two at her tables.