Afternoon Tea – A Repeating Watermark

There is something pleasant about a memory from our childhood that lingers and makes its watermark on the future enjoyments of our life.  Several times each month, after the 3:00 PM bell released me from school, I delighted in racing down eight blocks of sidewalks to my German grandparent’s house.  Inside the 1950’s white cottage with a steep red roof were three people I adored with all of my heart. I clearly remember bolting noisily through the back screen door and being embraced by the aroma of toasted pumpernickel and freshly baked cookies. The red and white kitchen was a bustle with Tante and grandma getting grandpa’s tea prepared.

As we sat down to the kitchen table laden with savory treats and began the daily ritual of afternoon tea, the day’s happenings would spill out, jokes and hilarious anecdotes would be told and peals of laughter would persist until tears ran down their crinkled faces. In this strict household, children were to be seen and not heard. But I did not mind these mores one bit. At that moment in time, I was safe, happy and with people, whom I loved dearly.

Like a repeating watermark, afternoon tea in my own home became a tradition and a pleasant method for teaching various things to my children. Character, manners, the art of conversation, and the opportunity to read the classics aloud were facts of this pleasant event.  Mary Poppins said it well when she told the children under her care “Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down!” Sometimes, growing up is not all that easy. Tea time became an enjoyable event to make the“medicine” of life go down a bit easier.

My daughter and I had a weekly teatime on Tuesdays. In the spirit of Mary Poppins, two cups of tea were prepared with enough sugar to keep our dentist happy and we settled ourselves in the quiet living room for our special time together. Every week it was the same; Laura lounging on the couch with her feet in my lap with her warm cup of tea nestled in her hands. I would be on the other end of the couch reading our book and massaging  her feet. Could there possibly be a better way to spend an hour? During this time we were both taught by tried and true authors on how to be a godly girl and woman.  Conversation flow easily as we discuss the various points the author made. Questions volleyed back and forth on the precise meaning of a statement or how we could put it into application.

 Lest you think teatime is just for women, my sons enjoyed this time as well. Like most family traditions, tea with my sons developed on its own.  My younger son Jacob sought me out to enjoy afternoon tea when they arrived home from junior college. Two or three times a week, we would sit down over a steaming mug and discuss the day’s event, class assignments, and any other item they wished to talk about.  During our homeschooling years, often times, I would read aloud from a book we were  enjoying, and lively discussions about the finer points would follow.  Afternoon tea took on a distinctly different flavor with my sons than it did with my daughter, but the moments were equally sweet.

In recent years the subtle watermark of afternoon tea continues to permeate my life. I have been blessed to enjoy the traditional afternoon tea with my husband at a castle in Ireland and a fine hotel in London and my husband learned to enjoy the delicate nuances of the Japanese tea ceremony while visiting my elder son. These lavish experiences give me an appreciation for the form and elegance of a proper teatime. But, I have come to the conclusion that for me the tradition of afternoon tea is not some stuffy event defined by rules and form. For me, afternoon tea has always been and will continue to be a lovely watermark on pages of my days. Teatime represents a repeating moment in time when important issues are discussed, persistent laughter experienced, life lessons learned and eternal truths explored in the company of people I love.