Mom’s Fragrant Tea Party by Mildred Grant

“Allen andChester, please bring all the straight chairs here, into the dining room,” Mom said, as she hung up the phone. “Eleanor and Mildred, we need to go into the kitchen and make cucumber sandwiches.”

            “What kind of sandwiches?” Eleanor and I asked, in one voice.

            “Your Aunt Mina just told me that cucumber sandwiches are the very latest thing for tea time.” Mom answered.” Served with a bit of onion, salt, and mayonnaise, they’re a big hit with guests at Mrs. Aumell’s ‘high teas’ where Mina works as a cook.”

            De-crusted bread slices, spread with butter, cut into triangles, half of them capped by a thin slice of cuke, then topped with a dollop of the mayo, salt, onion mixture; all covered with another triangle of buttered bread.

            “I must admit it smells quite good,” I commented.

            Mom heard and said, “No samples! Maybe there will be leftovers. There’s enough food choices so there should be plenty. Mary, please help me put the table-cloth and silverware on, while El and Mil finish these sandwiches.”

            Mom and Mary left the room as El and I made up the last sandwich, eyeing it lustfully, wondering if we dared—–

            “Nuh-uh,” El vetoed. “Mom probably has them all counted. We’d better not, besides, maybe there’ll be some left.”

            As Mom bustled back into the kitchen, she said, “There—Mary’s down for her nap, the boys are off adventuring, so why don’t you girls join them? Not so far you can’t hear me call, after the ladies leave.”

            We didn’t need a second invitation to spend the rest of the afternoon outdoors. Out the kitchen door, past the ‘wood’ room and out the back door.

            “There they are,” cried Eleanor. “Just going up the hill. How come Chet has a pail with him?”

            “He said he’s going to try to catch us a pet, since Mom won’t let us have one of Mrs. Duncan’s latest litter of kittens,” I explained.

            We caught up with the boys just as they climbed over the stone wall on the other side of the main road. We waved to Mrs. Duncan as she headed down the drive to Uncle Merritt’s house where we were spending the summer. Several other horse-drawn carriages turned down the drive too, as the Ladies Aid Society of the Church in Heath gathered for a short business meeting and then—tea time!

            The field we were in had been cut for the rowan, now in Uncle Merritt’s big hay loft, so Chet had no trouble finding our new pet. Eleanor, Allen and I rarely bothered to question Chet’s decisions, but this pet could cause us all some serious problems. He hastened to explain that our new ‘pet’ was harmless since it was only a baby. If it was older, it could and would defend itself. Taking our time, we petted and played with it all the way back to the house where we put it on the big, flat, stone doorstep at the back door.

            Mom was in the kitchen getting more tea water. Hearing us, she stepped to the door and promptly turned white as a sheet.

            “I mustn’t lose my temper. I mustn’t shout, but most of all I mustn’t faint,” Mom lectured to herself.

            “Chester, take your “pet” straight back to where you got it and be sure the parents aren’t around to punish you for taking their baby!” Mom ordered.

            Chet took a look at Mom’s face and decided not to argue. With it back in the pail, up the long hill trudged four disappointed children.

            “If we dump the baby here we should be ok. Her Mom is way over by the cemetery stone wall and we’re quicker than she is,” Chet said.

             “B-b-b-but what about the Pappa, right next to the spot where we just came over the wall? His back is to us, with his tail in the air!” cried Eleanor.

            Chet started to dash past our ‘pet’s’ Pappa, so the rest of us followed, only to be well and thoroughly sprayed with the most obnoxious “perfume” in the world. Chet tossed Allen, screaming bloody murder, over the stone wall, while El and I tumbled over the stones as best we could

            “Your eyes, are your eyes ok?” Chet asked, in a panic.

            Eleanor checked my eyes and Chet tried to look after Allen’s, but he was crying too hard. Being shorter than the rest, Allen was at the greatest risk, but the salty tears helped dilute the oily, stinking mess.

Mom’s tea party was in full swing when we reached the back door. Jennie Duncan, sitting nearest the kitchen door, sniffed once, and said to Mom, “Helen, perhaps we’d better check on the children. I think our adventuresome quartet have met up with a situation they can’t handle.”

Mom, standing on the kitchen threshold, sniffed just once, and burst into tears.

“Jennie, Jennie, what am I going to do?”

“Well, it seems we’ll have to break up the tea party and take care of these children.”

 “I’ll wrap up the party goodies and get the ladies on their way while you have Chester drag in the bathtub and help pour all the tomato juice you have into it. How much do you have on hand?” asked Jennie.

“If one tomato bath is enough, we should be ok, but I’m afraid what I have won’t be enough for the four of them.” Mom sounded so disheartened.

By now, the stench had reached the partying ladies in the dining room, who were, understandably, ready to leave.

Mrs. Hamilton offered to send her daughter Margaret over with several large cans of tomato juice and Mrs. Kinsman was sure her husband’s store could furnish enough more to get the job done. After telephoning, it was decided that perhaps Jennie was the best prepared to drive part way to town and meet Mr. Kinsman with a fresh supply of tomato juice.

We loved Jennie—our ‘tomato juice angel’

Mom never gave another tea party, but we did bring home ‘Gabriel,’ Mrs.Duncan’s big yellow tabby cat.

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