Thursday, May 13, 2010

High Times at High Tea

It is my annual Mother’s Day rite to offer a shovel--with me at the business end--as my gift to my spouse on that special day. We generally spend all Sunday afternoon digging in our yard, clearing out overgrown areas, hoeing weeds and transplanting perennials from one spot to another in a frenzy of springtime activity.
For one of us, it’s an all-too-short day spent communing with nature and making considered, creative decisions as to what should go where.
For the other one of us, it can become a way-too-long day of digging one hole after another.
If you’re confused as to who is whom in this annual symbiotic relationship, just remember, I’m the one with the shovel.
This year, I had what I considered a brilliant idea. I would create an end-of-day deadline by planning a special Mothers’ Day outing that would force us to hang up our gardening tools at a required time, hopefully before I was entirely crippled by too much shovel work. It had to be something irresistible to her, and an event with a specific time, too.
I found it.
The lovely Chestnut Street Inn in Sheffield was having high tea for Mothers’ Day. At 3:30. On the dot.
I told her all about my plan for her special treat and she replied with quiet assent, not even asking for details until Mothers’ Day morning.
Calls rolled in from sons and daughters-in-law that day, and to each, she said.
“Your dad is taking me to high tea today.”
Admiration from the daughters-in-law.
Mixed incredulity, awe and amusement from our sons.
And me? Well, I was feeling pretty proud of myself until she finally asked the essential question.
“Do you know what high tea is?”
Hmmm. That was a stumper.
“Well, there’s probably tea,” I said cautiously.
Of course, I really had no idea at all what I was getting into. But it sounded harmless and I figured there’d probably be something to eat. I have, after all, endured both a root canal and a foley catheter, so I could, I thought, handle this.
“There might be crowns,” she said.
She went on to explain that she had attended a high tea at a place in Dunlap called “Her Majesty’s Tea Room,” where all the guests wore royal headgear.
“Well, actually, they were more like tiaras,” she smiled, as if that somehow made it better.
Tiaras? I had a sudden awful vision of myself looking like a drag-queen version of Princess Di or, more likely, the Queen Mother.
Now, my spouse doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, but, she sensed my growing panic and, knowing she had me on the ropes, couldn’t resist a little Mothers’ Day fun.
“Maybe we should ask another couple to come along,” she said. “You could invite one of your friends.”
I have a lot of pals, for sure, but none so close that I’d want to make this kind of offer:
“Hey Bob, me and the little lady are heading out for high tea. What size tiara do you wear?”
Not exactly a phone call I was dying to make.
She wasn’t done.
“I didn’t even know you liked cucumber sandwiches,” she said.
I didn’t either.
By this time, I was getting kind of nervous. I consider myself a pretty flexible guy, but princess crowns and vegetable sandwiches are way outside my domain. Suddenly, my shovel started looked better and better.
“We don’t have to go if you don’t want to,” I said. “We could just stay here and dig holes.”
“I wouldn’t miss it,” she smiled again.
So we went.
And I’m glad we did.
The food, while somewhat daintier than an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet, was tasty, indeed. Even the cucumber sandwiches, which included a rousing mix of goat cheese and garlic, tickled my taste buds, though not as much as a dynamite turkey and pesto combo that had me dreaming of more.
And there wasn’t a tiara in sight.
It was, in all reality, a nice, rather grown-up thing to do, as we sampled the goodies and relaxed in the Inn’s dining area overlooking a sunlit patio and garden area.
But the best came later as we embarked on a wandering country-road ride back to Galva.
“You’re really a good sport,” she said.
I smiled.
“I was thinking, maybe we could do this more often after I retire,” she continued. “Kind of like a tour of tea rooms.”
I looked carefully at her out of the corner of my eye.
And yes, thank heavens, she laughed.

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