I really don’t know what became of The Red Hat Society, but it turns out that my little bookgroup in Seattle could give it a run for its money. This Saturday we will be hosting a tea. How did it happen that women with a love for fine literature and wine or champagne and memoir until the wee hours, will be throwing a proper tea at two o’clock in the afternoon?
A younger woman joined our group a few years back. It was big of us to open our arms to her in that she is gorgeous, striking like a runway model because she was one—for Calvin Klein no less. Turns out she’s the most prolific reader in the group. Our challenge every month is to suggest a title she hasn’t yet read, but we love having her. In her company we all feel a little younger, hipper, smarter, and we’ve all made a conscious effort to be a bit more fashionable. That’s saying a lot in the land of Northface fleece, Merrill shoes, and Wellies.
Anyway while the rest of us have sat around quite comfortably, all being mothers of twenty-somethings off-somewhere-doing-something-splendid, our young friend is still immersed in the twenty-four hour job of raising a child day in and day out. You can tell because there is always a time that must be allotted for her to decompress. When she first joined our bookgroup, her daughter was three or four years of age. Now she is seven, and even A. A. Milne didn’t want to go there. “… now I am six, I’m as clever as clever. So I think I’ll be six now and forever.” Apparently seven is more complicated. Even for an only child, precocious and enchanting, with perhaps more than one child’s share of the advantages that come from having two highly devoted and intellectual parents.
“Tell us,” we asked, “what can we do for her?”
And that’s when it hit us. We could rise up like aunties and throw a little tea party! She could bring her friend, and they in turn could bring their dolls. The American Girl doll, which is a phenomena in itself. Released in 1986 by Pleasant Company, the American Girl doll was there for our girls and they are here for today’s girls. Otherwise, god help us, it would be a total Barbie world. Really, we only had to turn to The American Girl catalog for ideas, but we were not born yesterday and had an inkling of what constitutes a proper tea. One of us remembered cucumber sandwiches in white bread, with the crusts cut off.
“Off with the skin on the cucumber as well!” she cried, recalling that too.
Everyone ran in every direction. The Calvin Klein model mother sped off saying something about “tulle and crinoline,” what she would wear, I think. I signed up for table décor, for which I intend to place small individual pails planted with bulbs: hyacinth and mini daffodils, at each setting for everyone to take home. We will make it look as springtime as possible. Petits fours, placed before the dolls, will look like splendid cakes.
The magic has begun. We are all nearly as giddy as we expect the girls to be on Saturday. The American Girl dolls, of course, will be composed. I turned to Fannie Farmer and Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking for further suggestions. Irma is especially helpful. She offers four menus for afternoon tea. One menu starts off with Dry Sherry, which we will skip. Tea #2, Dubonnet; Tea #3, Claret Cup; and May Wine for Tea #4. We will have to do without all of that, but I may make her Poppy Seed Custard Cake Cockaigne, p. 689. We will all take tea, and the dolls of course will have their own tea set too. Porcelain, of that we can be certain.