The Tea Party
By Tom Foster
Summer drummed her toes on the plastic stool she was using to reach the sink, or at least she tried to. Her mother could drum her toes, so could her Grandma Darlene, even her Great-Aunt Sherryl could drum her toes! As much as she tried though all Summer could really do was wiggle them, but that was fun too, it made her happy. It also was something to do while she took the time to clean herself up, standing in front of the three-section mirror that hung on the wall of the bathroom she shared with her mother. Humming a song she’d learned in Sunday school only a few days ago Summer bobbed her head from side to side, scrubbing at her teeth with her toothbrush as the white, minty stuff began to foam from her mouth.
She smiled, baring her teeth as she went “Grrr!” like a jungle cat. Summer could still remember how much fun she’d had at the zoo only a few weeks ago with Cousin Tommy and his girlfriend Heather. She was going to get to see Heather again today!
Cousin Tommy wasn’t going to be there, but that was okay. Her mother had already explained that today was a “Girl’s Day Out”. That meant absolutely no boys! So far Summer had heard that her mother, herself, Heather, Grandma Darlene, Great-Aunt Sherryl, Great-Grandma Jean, Aunt Carrie, her cousins Maya, Savanna, and Haley were coming too. That was a lot of girls! Summer kind of wondered what the boys would be doing today, especially since her mother had told her that the boys were having their own little get-together too. What did boys do when there were no girls around?
Shrugging her shoulders Summer growled into the mirror again, laughing as she watched her reflection do the same back at her. As she leaned forward she looked to the other panels to the sides of the middle mirror, frowning just a little since she knew her arms were too short to reach them. Summer knew how funny it looked when the mirrors were opened, it was like looking at a bunch of different hers that all looked back or looked the other way! It was confusing, but it was funny too.
She was leaning back when she heard a light clink as something rattled into the sink just below her. Summer looked down, just in time to see her favorite ring, the one Great-Grandma Jean had given her for her last birthday, disappear into the dark hole that was the drain for the sink! Her heart sank immediately as she dropped her toothbrush on the counter, splattering toothpaste everywhere as she reached into the hole. Her fingers were too short though and the drain was too long!
Summer had a problem now. She could just barely see the silver ring at the bottom of the drain; it hadn’t gone all the way down at least! She couldn’t get to it, but she had another problem that she had to deal with. She had a mouthful of toothpaste and she really, really needed to spit it out.
She couldn’t call out to her mother or Grandpa Jack since her mouth was so full, but that meant she couldn’t get them to help her either! Looking from the door to her right back to the drain Summer wore a helpless expression on her face, not knowing what to do as she gripped the edge of the counter with both hands. As she looked back to the doorway though she saw as Grandpa Jack appeared, walking down the hallway that would lead to his bedroom at the back of the house, not noticing her at all.
Summer waved her hands as much as she could, hopping up and down until she nearly lost her balance in order to get Grandpa Jack’s attention. He went right by! As she almost slipped off the stool though, she held onto the counter thankfully, she looked up to see him walking backward, a curious smile on his face as he raised his eyebrows at her.
“Hey Summie,” he said, a laugh forming in his voice, “Do you need help with something?” Grandpa Jack could always be counted on to smile and laugh at anything, even if it wasn’t that funny at the moment. Summer closed her mouth as she tried not to swallow, nodding her head at Grandpa Jack as she did. This was a lot for a little girl to accomplish all at once!
Summer motioned with both hands to the sink drain, pointing down into it as Grandpa Jack watched, still smiling. She waved her hands in the air to indicate how important it was, pointing again down into the drain as Grandpa Jack laughed softly.
“Something went down the drain I take it?” Summer nodded in response to his words, bobbing her head up and down as her mass of dark hair swished along her shoulders. Her mother hadn’t gotten around to doing her hair yet, nor had she finished ironing out a few wrinkles in her pretty green dress. Summer was awful glad she wasn’t wearing her favorite dress yet; she might have gotten toothpaste on it by now!
“Okay, let’s see what’s down there, oh wait,” Grandpa Jack leaned down just a bit, noticing the broken silver chain that hung around Summer’s neck. Looking just a bit guilty Summer looked back at him, seeing the smile fade just a little as Grandpa Jack understood what she’d lost. Shaking his head he then looked into the drain, his eyebrows raising as he saw what was there.
Summie, Summie, Summie,” Grandpa Jack said, clucking his tongue once as he looked back at her, “Didn’t your mom tell you what would happen if you kept playing with that necklace?” Summer nodded guiltily, still trying hard not to swallow the toothpaste that still sloshed around in her mouth. She really needed to spit.
The ring was too large for her fingers, that was why her mother had bought Summer a nice silver necklace, a chain really, that she wore around her neck. Unfortunately Summer had developed a habit of playing with the chain, twisting it so that the ring would spin when she held it away from her body. Her mother had warned her more than once what would happen if she played with it too often in such a manner, but in the way of all kids Summer had done it anyway. It was pretty to look at, and even prettier when the glittering pieces of diamonds (her Grandpa Jack said they weren’t diamonds but Great-Grandma Jean swore they were) caught the sunlight, sparkling this way and that.
Grandpa Jack reached easily into the drain, it must have been nice to be an adult, nothing was ever too big it seemed like. Pulling out the ring he looked at Summer, who really, really, really needed to spit out the toothpaste now, her eyes widening as he turned on the water, motioning for her to do just that.
* * *
Her dress was so pretty, its soft green with black trim was pleasing to the eye, so her mother said, and it felt nice too against her skin. Summer was strapped in as usual in the backseat of her mother’s car. It was for safety her mother said, just in case anything happened on the road. Her mother was a good driver though; Summer knew nothing would ever happen. She hadn’t been given a juice box or anything like usual, her mother didn’t want her spilling anything on her dress. She was a little thirsty, but Summer didn’t want to mess up her dress either. Besides, there would be plenty to drink she was sure when they got to the place they were going.
It was called the Hidden House, a very nice restaurant her mother had told her. Summer had asked her mother just why anyone would hide a house, to which her mother had replied with a laugh.
“The house isn’t really hidden Summie,” her mother had said, “That’s just its name is all.” Summer had still wondered why anyone would name their house, it seemed kind of silly. Her mother had just laughed some more and told her that it was a restaurant, not a house. That had just confused Summer even more. How could a house be a restaurant? She’d been to a restaurant more than once; they were a lot different than a house. Her mother had simply shaken her head and called her silly, which meant the subject had eventually been dropped.
Sitting in the backseat now Summer couldn’t wait to see everyone. They were going to meet up at the Hidden House with everyone else for a tea party! Summer had never been to an actual tea party, but her mother had told about one or two she’d gone to when she was younger. Her mother had said that at a tea party all little girls, or little ladies, as she’d said, had to be dressed up nice, do their hair up all nice, and be well-mannered little ladies. Summer didn’t know much about this, she was what Grandpa Jack liked to call a “tomboy”. She didn’t really know what that meant, but she liked to get dirty sometimes chasing the chickens around her grandpa’s back field. She would sometimes run with the goats, with her grandpa or mother watching of course, and she would even feed the pigs that were out back of the large garden that her grandpa kept.
Today though she had to a “little lady” as her mother had said. Summer didn’t mind dressing it up, it was fun really, but she wouldn’t mind getting back into her coveralls and chasing the chickens when she got the next chance either.
“Is my little lady all ready to go?” her mother asked as she stood where Summer could see her, hands on her hips as she smiled at her daughter. Summer nodded, thinking her mother looked really pretty in her own red and black dress. It went down just past her knees and had no sleeves up top. Her mother looked really pretty, especially with the diamond earrings that she’d had for longer than Summer could remember. Her mother’s blonde hair was all curled and brushed behind her shoulders, but a few coils managed to sneak forward as her mother leaned down to check Summer’s seatbelt once more, bouncing a little as Andrea leaned back, bumping her head accidentally on the inside of the car.
“Oh!” her mother said, “That hurts!” Summer couldn’t help it, she laughed as her mother rubbed the back of her head, frowning until she looked down at her daughter. A smile crossed Andrea’s lips as she saw her daughter giggling, her teeth showing as she leaned in again.
“Oh that’s funny, huh?” Summer’s eyes widened as her mother leaned closer, her hands creeping up slowly as Summer’s mouth opened wide, she knew what was coming!
“Then what about, this?!” her mother cried, tickling Summer’s armpits with her fingers as Summer squealed in delight. Her laughter was loud as her mother tickled her for several breaths, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek after as she straightened up again, carefully this time. Summer wrapped the fingers of her left hand around the ring that hung on the chain around her neck, not tugging at it but just holding it. Grandpa Jack had been nice enough to fix the chain and put the ring back on it, but he’d told her once more to be careful, that the ring Great Grandma-Jean had given her was special. Summer had promised to be more careful, though she knew it might happen again. She was a kid, of course it would.
* * *
The drive from their home in Washougal was always a long one when they were going into the city. It was always a long drive anyway, even when they were just going into town, but Summer’s mother had ways of making it fun, like singing songs as they were doing now.
“Wild thing!” Andrea sang, looking to the rearview mirror where she saw Summer giggling, moving to the music as it filled the car.
“Dah dah dah, da da!” Summer crowed.
“You make everything!”
“Groovy!” Summer and her mother sang together. Summer laughed, as did her mother, as the song continued, the sound of the guitar and whatever instruments giving her the rhythm she needed to bob her head and move her arms to the music. Summer liked to dance, she liked to sing, and she liked to do both with her mother when the mood struck them. Grandpa Jack had even joined in a time or two back at home, of course when it was just the three of them. When company was over Grandpa Jack seemed to enjoy talking a lot more than being silly. Summer supposed it was a grown-up thing, but she knew her grandpa could be just as silly as she and her mom could.
The guitar ramped up again as Summer smiled, anticipating the words again as her mother didn’t disappoint.
“Dah dah dah, da da!”
“You make my heart sing!”
“Dah dah dah, da da!”
“You make everything!”
“Groovy!” They sang together, finishing the song as it faded on the radio, becoming quiet as the radio began to switch to the next song. Her mother smiled at her in the mirror, a gesture that Summer returned in her own gap-toothed fashion. She’d began to lose her baby teeth a while ago, which in her mind meant a long time ago. Summer was no longer a baby, she was growing up too fast, or so her Grandpa Jack said. One day she’d be going out with boys, driving a car, going to college and then eventually moving out on her own.
Summer laughed when she heard Grandpa Jack say such things, she was still a little girl! She liked boys, well, playing with them at least, when they were nice, but otherwise boys were just so, weird. They did the strangest things, they liked weird stuff and what was worse a lot of them thought that girls had cooties. Summer didn’t even know what a cootie was, but she was sure she didn’t have them. Like her mother had told her, the doctor would have told her the last time she was in for a checkup if she had anything like that.
“Mommy, how long is a tea party?” Summer was really excited to go to her first tea party, even though her mother had told her she’d been to one already. That had been a long time ago though, when she couldn’t remember anything. She didn’t think her mom was fibbing, but it would be nice to go to a tea party she could finally remember.
“Well, depending on Great-Grandma Jean I guess it could last a couple of hours. I think by then we’ll all be ready to head home.”
Summer thought about that, she knew that Great-Grandma Jean didn’t often go out; she had health problems that prevented her from being able to go out when she wanted all the time. Of course Summer had heard Grandpa Jack and Great-Uncle Dave say such problems were largely in Great-Grandma’s head, but she hadn’t understood that well what they’d been talking about. They’d been laughing about it though, so Summer assumed it was a joke, nothing serious. She knew that Great-Grandma and her Great-Uncle Dave and Grandpa Jack didn’t always get along, but they were nice to each other most of the time.
Summer grew serious in that moment as she looked at her mother in the rearview mirror, “Mommy, are you going to tell Great-Grandma I almost lost my ring?” Summer knew just how special her ring was, Great-Grandma Jean had told her when she’d given it to her for her birthday. Since that time Summer had been very careful with the ring, never letting it out of her sight and never losing it until today. Well, almost anyway.
“You still have it right?” her mother asked, glancing at her in the mirror. Summer’s only response was a nod as she looked out of the window to her left, her eyes big and her lips set into a straight line.
“Well then there’s no reason to say anything. No harm, no foul, just like grandpa says right?” Andrea smiled at her daughter as Summer returned the look in the mirror, smiling wide as she did.
“Oh Summie! Here’s another good song!” Her mother turned up the radio a little bit as Summer listened, smiling even wider as heard the tune. The gentle sound of a xylophone filled the car as Summer and her mother swayed to the beat, waiting patiently for the words to come.
Together they sang, “Every day, it’s a-gettin’ closer, goin’ faster than a rollercoaster, love like this will, surely come my way, a-hey, a-hey hey.” Summer liked singing in the car with her mom; it was always a lot of fun.
* * *
They arrived in Vancouver not long after the song “Louie Louie” had finished, pulling up to the curb not far from a big, old-looking house where Summer could see her cousins, great-aunt and great-grandma, grandma, aunt, and Heather waiting. Each one them looked so pretty! They were all wearing dresses except for Great-Grandma Jean, who were instead a nice pair of pants and a pretty sweater with the picture of a dog on the front. Great-Grandma Jean really liked dogs; she’d had at least three for as long as Summer could remember, which was a long time in her mind.
The three dogs that Great-Grandma Jean had now were the same three that she’d had when her mother and Cousin Tommy had been around her age, which made the dogs really old. There was a shaggy-looking dog named Baby, a really old, cream-colored dog named Taffy, and a wiener dog, that was a funny name, called Gretchen. Each one of great-grandma’s dogs barked a lot every time someone came to her door, but they were nice dogs. Taffy was a little grouchy sometimes, but Gretchen and Baby were always happy to see people.
Summer could see the dog on her great-grandma’s sweater wasn’t any of the dogs she had, but instead a big picture of a puppy, something that looked like Gretchen but without the long body. Summer didn’t know as much about dogs as Great-Grandma Jean, but her sweater was cute anyway. As her mother unbuckled her Summer was bounding out of the car, eager to see her family as they saw her and her mother coming towards them.
She hugged her Great-Aunt Sherryl, Great-Grandma Jean, Grandma Darlene, Aunt Carrie, and then Heather in turn as Heather picked her up, smiling at her as she always did. Her cousins said hi to her, but Summer only rarely hugged her cousins, it was just something she didn’t do. Kids hugging kids was okay as far as she was concerned, but hugging adults seemed like something she should do, even though it was often something she really wanted to do.
Summer had grown attached to Heather not long after meeting her, surprising some of her family since it had been well known that she’d become attached to Cousin Tommy in the same manner. Heather was a lot like Cousin Tommy though, she was really nice and didn’t ignore her like adults sometimes did to kids. Heather never ignored any of the kids when they were around, dividing her attention as much as she could between the kids and the adults.
“Hi Summie!” Heather said, holding her on one hip. Heather’s blonde hair was curled much like her mother’s, but instead of hanging over her forehead a little Heather kept hers swept back, which made her look very pretty. “Ooh I like your dress, it’s so pretty!” Summer giggled as she hid her face in Heather’s right shoulder, a little embarrassed but glad that she’d noticed. Heather hugged her tight as Summer returned the hug, clinging to her as they all began to make their way to the walkway that would lead to the front steps of the Hidden House.
“That house isn’t hiding!” Summer crowed. Heather looked over her shoulder, smiling at Andrea as Summer’s mother just shook her head, rolling her eyes as she smiled back.
“Remember to be polite now Summie,” Great-Aunt Sherryl said as they made their way up the steps. Great-Grandma Jean had to be helped by Aunt Carrie and Grandma Darlene as she made her way slowly. Savanna, Maya, and Haley were already at the top of the steps waiting patiently, each one of them looking very cute in their dresses.
“Yep, we have to be ladies today.” Heather said, looking at Summer with a smile as she lightly touched her nose with one finger. Summer wrinkled her nose as she pulled away, raising her own finger to touch Heather’s nose as Heather pulled away too, still smiling. This was just a small thing that Heather and she did. Heather and Cousin Tommy did it too, though Cousin Tommy always went “beep! beep!” when he did it to Heather. It was funny to watch.
“Okay you two, shhh.” Great-Aunt Sherryl said with a smile, raising one finger to her lips. Heather let Summer down as they reached the wide front porch of the restaurant, holding onto her hand as Summer quieted down. Looking behind her, Summer could see that the day was still sunny as it had been, which made going inside seem kind of silly. But if a tea party was held inside then she guessed that was where they needed to go. This was going to be fun!
* * *
There was so much food! And all of it was so little! Summer and the other three girls eyed the delicacies hungrily as they sat at the large table that had been reserved for them, but none of them tried to grab for them. They were being perfect little ladies, as they’d been told, and would wait. Summer felt a little proud of herself that she could eye all these tasty-looking treats and not proceed to simply stuff her face. She was getting to be a big girl finally, not a little kid.
Maya and Savanna, the closest to her in age, were just as polite, sitting with their hands in their laps as they looked around the restaurant. It was a nice place, but the lighting was kind of low, unlike most of the restaurants that Summer had been in before. Heather sat to her right, while Haley sat to her left, each one of them sitting patiently as their hostess, a very nice-looking, gray-haired lady, made sure they all found their seats. Great-Grandma Jean was the last to sit down, easing into her high-back chair with only a little difficulty as she smiled at Aunt Carrie, saying thank you for the help.
“Now then ladies, may I start you out with something specific to drink, or the house blend?” Summer didn’t really know what that meant as she looked to Heather, who, seeing her confusion, leaned close to whisper.
“It’s a tea party, she wants to know if we want something other than what they serve everyone.” Summer’s eyebrows rose in understanding, sort of. She’d seen her mother and Grandpa Jack drink tea at home, but when she’d tasted theirs she’d wrinkled her nose, not liking the bitter taste of it.
“I don’t think I want tea,” Summer said, twisting her lips as she remembered the bad taste.
“You can put sugar in your tea Summie, or even milk, it’ll make it taste better,” her mother said, picking up the slim menu that had been laid in front of her. Summer watched as the others did the same, each of them looking over the menus as the gray-haired lady waited for them to decide. Looking at her own menu Summer couldn’t really understand what she was looking at, but she did recognize a lot of words.
She was more used to places like the Sizzler, or Old Country Buffet, or if Grandpa Jack was feeling really generous the Outback Steakhouse. That place was great. More often than not her mom and Grandpa Jack would cook meals at home, they didn’t go out a whole lot, so it was a treat when they did.
“See anything that looks yummy Summer?” Heather asked, still looking at her own menu.
“What’s es, escargot?” Savanna asked, pronouncing the word just as it looked. The other women laughed just a little bit, the older woman with the gray hair chuckling as she clasped her hands together.
“That’s escargot dear, the “t” is silent. I’m not sure you’d like that.”
“Why not?” Maya asked, “What is it?”
Aunt Carrie looked at her daughters with a raised eyebrow, looking to Great-Aunt Sherryl just then. Summer, Savanna and Maya all looked to Great-Aunt Sherryl then, each one of them wanting an answer as they waited patiently.
“Oh dear, oh my,” she began, taking a large breath, “Escargot are snails girls.” Summer’s eyes widened as she thought of slipping a slimy, slippery snail into her mouth. She almost stuck her tongue out right then, but then she remembered that she was supposed to be a perfect little lady today, which meant no rude behavior. Sticking your tongue out was pretty rude as her mother had told her so many times. Looking over to Maya and Savanna she saw that they too were just barely holding it in, trying not to look as though they were about to scream that that was gross, that was nasty, that was just plain sick. Why would anyone want to eat a snail? Who in the world had decided that was okay?
“It doesn’t sound that good,” was all Savanna said.
Summer nodded as she agreed, “It sounds,” she looked to her Great-Aunt Sherryl, “postivly dreadful.” There was absolute silence for several moments as each eye was directed at her, making Summer blush as she took in their looks, thinking she’d said something wrong. Then they all laughed.
The gray-haired old lady laughed along with them, “I agree little lady, I agree, but some people like them.”
“Some people are weird then.” Maya said, still laughing.
“Maya!” her mother scolded lightly, still laughing. Maya did not stop smiling as the gray-haired lady told Aunt Carrie that it was perfectly alright, that such a thing didn’t make anyone less of a lady. Maya beamed at the woman’s words, sitting up a little straighter in her chair as she held onto her menu.
“Is there anything on the menu that would be a little more, acceptable I guess, for the little ones?” Grandma Darlene asked, looking to the gray-haired lady.
“Oh we do have meals that would be perfect for children, but from the way they’re eyeing the china dishes I’m assuming they’d just as soon feast on goodies. Am I right?” Summer, Maya, and Savanna all nodded silently, smiling in anticipation as they eyeballed the goodies stacked on the plates.
“Oh yeah, me too.” Haley said, earning a laugh from the gray-haired woman.
“No sweets until after dinner, or lunch, or whatever we’re having.” Great-Grandma Jean said, looking a little serious as she looked to the kids. They continued laughing, though both Summer’s mother and Heather did their best to quiet them down at least a bit. The three youngest girls did quiet down, paying attention as they’d been instructed. Her mother smiled at her, saying a quiet thank you to Summer as Aunt Carrie did the same to her daughters. This was more fun than she’d expected!
* * *
The food was good, if just a little spicy. Summer had ordered a Greek salad, something that had sounded good when Heather had read everything that was in it, and it really was pretty good. She’d been told to eat closer to the table though so she didn’t spill any onto her dress. The old woman that served them, her name was Apollonia, but she told them to call her Polly, had been back several times to ask how their meal was and to even talk to them from time to time. Business within the Hidden House was slow that day she said and it was always a delight to speak to her customers as though they were well-known guests instead. Summer had already decided she liked the woman, she didn’t talk to just the adults and knew how to make her, Savanna, and Maya feel as though they were part of the talk at all times.
She’d left them alone when they were eating, that was nice of her, but she’d asked how they were doing many times, to which they’d all replied they were doing just fine. Everything was so good that Summer knew she would probably fill herself to bursting before she left. As she’d been told though she acted like a lady, asking for things instead of reaching for them, wiping her hands and lips with a napkin instead of her forearm and enjoying her food rather than gobbling it down.
Heather had helped her out when the tea had come. Instead of the house blend Grandma Darlene and Great-Aunt Sherryl had ordered several different types, telling Polly that they wanted to try at least a few so that the younger girls could make a decision. Polly had understood completely and had wheeled out a large tea cart that was bedecked with frilly lace and knitted things called doilies that were really very elegant. Summer had been impressed by everything she saw, her eyes widening as her jaw had nearly dropped. Heather had helped her with that, lifting her jaw until her teeth clacked lightly together. That had elicited a few laughs as Summer had blushed.
She was very careful as she took a lady-like sip of the tea she’d selected, something called Assam Black Tea. With sugar and cream it was actually pretty good, but the trick she’d learned from Polly was not to use too much, or you wouldn’t taste the tea at all.
“A good tea is like a good story,” Polly had said, “If you water it down too much you won’t get to experience the full flavor, and then you won’t know what’s really there.” Summer hadn’t fully understood this, though Heather had managed to help her just a little.
“It means if you can’t taste the tea, then it wasn’t worth having.” Summer nodded as she managed to understand just a bit better, though she still couldn’t really understand why Polly had tried to say about how a good tea was like a good story. Heather couldn’t help her there, but she said that Cousin Tommy probably could, which Summer fully agreed with. But he was a boy, and this was a lady’s day, no boys allowed!
“That’s right,” Heather said with a smile, “The boys are off doing boys things and we’re here enjoying the day like ladies.” Summer smiled as she took another sip of tea, enjoying the sugar taste and the slightly bitter aftertaste that followed. Her eyes widened as she looked to Polly, who was standing near Great-Grandma Jean and Great-Aunt Sherryl. The old woman was smiling warmly as she caught Summer’s look.
“I can taste the tea!” Summer exclaimed in a calm voice, smiling from ear to ear as Polly nodded, nodding her head as she closed her eyes briefly.
“Then it was a good choice.” Summer really liked Polly, she was a nice lady.
“How long has this place been here?” Savanna asked, looking around at the ornate decorations that could be seen throughout the restaurant. Despite the dim lighting it was a very lovely place, with old, antique furniture everywhere and artwork that none of the girls were very familiar with.
“Oh, for quite some time,” Polly answered, “I was a little girl when my family came to this country, and we started out on the east coast, where we had another Hidden House, much smaller than this one thought.” Summer cocked her head curiously as she could see that Polly was remembering something far back in her past. She’d seen her Grandpa Jack and Grandma Darlene do this as well at times, seeming to lose focus as they thought about parts of their lives that they didn’t always speak about. It was kind of neat to think of the stories and many things that older people had seen, maybe one day Summer would be able to do that.
“The Hidden House has been in Vancouver now for, oh I’m not sure, at least two decades or more.”
“Twenty years.” Heather told her, placing the amount of time in better perspective for Summer and the other two girls. Their eyes went wide as they thought about how long twenty years was. That was a really, really long time!
Polly laughed as she saw their expressions, “Yes, when I came to this country I was not much older than you girls. My parents came here to start a new life, bringing a touch of Greece to America they said.” Polly sighed as she paused, closing her eyes briefly, “I can remember so well their dream to open this place and others all across the country. For a short time it seemed as though we would become one of the most famous families in America, but then things changed, just like they always do.”
Summer could hear the sadness in Polly’s tone, but the woman was still smiling, perhaps remembering what her life had been like to this point. She couldn’t imagine what it was like to remember so much, she could barely remember that much of her life and she was still a kid! Maybe her memory would get as good as Polly’s once she got older.
“So is still a family run business?” Grandma Darlene asked. Since they were mostly finished eating the plates had been taken away, leaving only the desserts that lay so tantalizingly close on a sideboard buffet that was only a short distance away. Summer, Savanna, Maya, and Haley had all eyed the desserts hungrily even through lunch, but had not once asked if they could have one. They were being perfect little ladies.
“Oh for the most part,” Polly said, “My two sons handle much of the business, and one of their friends, a good boy but not business-minded, does much of the cooking and baking. Oh Steven is a wonderful cook and quite the baker, I feel lucky to have such an interesting young man in my kitchen.”
“He is a very good cook.” Andrea said, taking another sip of her tea.”
Polly laughed as she saw the girls eyeing the pastries and cakes once again, “He’s just as fine a baker I assure you, much as these girls would like to find out I’m sure.” The others looked to the younger girls, laughing as they saw the wanting looks on their faces. Still they did not ask for a single treat, minding their manners as they’d been told. Summer’s mother smiled at her, looking to Grandma Darlene as though to ask if it was okay.
“They’ve been so good.” Great-Grandma Jean said, “Can’t they have a treat?” The girls’ eyes lit up as they heard this, surely they couldn’t be told no now!
“Oh I don’t know,” Great-Aunt Sherryl teased, “They’ve been good till now, what’s to say a full load of sugar won’t change all that?” Summer smiled at her great-aunt, she knew Great-Aunt Sherryl was only kidding, that she too would want a treat. It was a tea party after all, they couldn’t not have at least one!
“Oh I suppose,” Grandma Darlene said, rolling her eyes comically as she smiled, “Can you bring them on a cart so they point out which ones they want?” Polly laughed along with the others as she clapped her hands once.
“Oh I can do better than that if you’ll permit me.” Grandma Darlene nodded as to say it was okay, looking to Aunt Carrie and Summer’s mother in turn as they nodded as well.
“Okay then.” Polly said, turning to the four young girls as her eyes lit up, “Girls? If you’ll follow me I’ll allow you to pick out your own treat, and then we’ll let the older ladies do the same. Does that sound fair?”
“Yeah! I mean, yes, that sounds fair.” Maya giggled at Savanna’s sudden change in mannerism, sliding from her seat as her dress rumpled slightly. As all four girls followed Polly over to the dessert cart Summer looked back to see that each one of the older ladies were looking after them with wide smiles, waiting patiently for them to return. This was so much fun!
* * *
Only about an hour later they were on their way again, heading back home after saying their goodbyes to everyone. Summer’s tummy was full up and she could already feel herself starting to nod off as she hugged her family goodbye, thanking them as her mother had told her to do before they’d left the restaurant. Polly had wished them all a good evening and told them to come back anytime. She’d even let the younger girls take another treat home with them! Summer was decided, she definitely liked Polly.
As her mother buckled her in to her seat Summer felt her eyelids beginning to close. The treat she’d been given was in a small cardboard box on the seat in front next to her mother so it wouldn’t slide off onto the floor. Summer didn’t mind right now, she was close to falling asleep and couldn’t eat another bite.
“Did you have fun Summie?”
“Mmm-hmm.” Summer responded sleepily, her eyes already closing.
“My little girl’s first tea party, I was very proud of you today Summer.” Summer smiled as she continued to fade away, her hands resting in her lap as her head began to loll forward. Before they were even away from the curb she was asleep, dreaming of running on the farm again in her coveralls. The tea party had been fun, but she was a tomboy, whatever that was.