I believe in tea parties.
When I was little, I had a china tea set. It was white with dark pink roses and had come in a blue box. I remember frequently taking it out and setting it up to serve my doll baby Karen and a revolving cast of stuffed and plastic guests. I remembered my occasional frustration at the teapot lid falling inside the teapot, but other than that, I remember nothing but happiness associated with that tea set.
And so it was, when the table and chairs set I got my granddaughter Stephanie for her second birthday seemed to be used for little more than a depository for her crayons and sticker books, I knew just what it needed: a tea set: plain white china, service for four.
We set the tea set on the table while Stephanie was napping and as soon as she saw it, she needed no further instruction. Suddenly all four chairs were filled ⎯three monkeys, one Stephanie. Each monkey had a plate, a saucer, and a cup. She served them, occasionally helping them drink by putting a cup up to their embroidered mouths. She rarely sat herself, tending carefully to the needs of her monkeys, clearing away all of the dishes when she deemed they were finished and setting them all back up almost immediately to start another round. I hesitated a moment giving a china tea set to a 2-year-old, but she knew without being told that this was not like her other toys. As she cleared the table, she carried each cup and saucer set, thumbs inside the cup rim, saucer steady, elbows out and eyes watchful for slipping, until all were safely to their intended destinations. She did it right, no shortcuts.
At first, the tea parties were only for the monkeys. She shooed away anyone else who might try to play along. Eventually, however the rest of us were handed a saucer and a cup of tea and became part of her tea party regulars. She now makes the rounds with her tea set accessories, tending to every teatime need. “Sugar? Cream? Teapot?” she asks. She bustles about and we compliment her delicious brew.
We play along out of love, and Stephanie responds in kind serving her imaginary tea from her bottomless pot and never stopping to wonder if she will have enough for herself.
That is part of the beauty of tea parties; they help us demonstrate those inborn qualities that make our lives happy. In her tea parties, Stephanie understands the idea of service and caring: take care of your own, branch out to others, lend a hand to those who can’t help themselves.
So, I believe in tea parties, the simple venue of many of life’s virtues in action.
Born of imagination, they are a cooperative scenario where everyone involved knows his or her part and performs it with gusto and joy.
I guess there are a lot of ways to bring happiness to the world, but for my money, a tea party is the way to go.
Even a 2-year-old can tell you that.
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