My Grandmother read romance novels one after another after another after another. She sat in a chair in her living room, smoking cigarettes, and reading stories about muscular men and…ahem… curvy women. After her first cancer diagnosis, she gave up the cigarettes but no one could pry those books out of her hands.
I remember watching a movie with Grandmother once. It was before we had a million channels so this was a Lifetime movie before there were Lifetime movies. The main character, a woman, fell in love with a wealthy older man. It was forbidden love. Of course. Eventually, after their spouses have both died, in their golden years, the two were finally able to be together.
Grandmother sighed deeply, “She waited so long for him.”
I remember thinking, yeah, and that was clearly not worth it.
One of us dreamed of fairy tales and one of us was pretty sure those were only real in the imaginations of little girls and whistful grandmothers.
I think her romantic side, her longing for something refined and magical, was one of the reasons she collected tea sets and porcelain bells. Her collections spread out across the top shelves of her bookcases. Not sure what happened to the bells but the tea sets went to my uncle, my mom, and me. My set is not unique. Almost every antique store and even thrift stores I hunt through has pieces of this set. It was an inexpensive, mass-produced set sold in the 1950’s called Pompadour Rose.
And Grandmother collected a whole lot of it.
When we were pregnant with our daughter, I was determined to create a vintage nursery for her.
Listen, I was farmhouse before y’all even knew where Waco, TX was located on a map.
In addition to my grandmother’s iron and mismatched vintage plates, I had a shelf with the child-sized Pompadour Rose tea set. A small teapot, a sugar and creamer set, and six tiny teacups with saucers.
My daughter, who is fancy and frilly and fantastically messy, loves tea parties. Like most little girls, she has set up hundreds of tea parties in her vast eight years of life. She’s played hours of dress up in her princess costumes sipping water from her very own tea set her Nana gave her several years ago.
A royal wedding seemed like the perfect opportunity for Grandmother’s tea set to make an appearance. Grandmother with all her fairytale dreams would have loved a royal wedding tea party.
So on Friday night, I pulled out two teacups, two dessert plates (because I couldn’t reach the saucers), and the teapot. Gathered the precious vintage sheet with bright pink roses that belonged to my husband’s grandmother and spread it out on the floor. I laid the folding table down on top and placed my favorite quilted tablecloth on top. Aqua linen napkins with lace accents. And from my mom, a couple of adorable vintage-inspired paper plates she bought me at a local boutique store.
I created a centerpiece with a white wooden tray, one of my bird’s nests and the teapot next to it.
Since we don’t own fancy fascinators, I collected our sun hats. Grabbed several strands of my pearls thinking we could get dressed up in those, too.
It was set. Ready for my little miracle princess’ Dress Up Royal Wedding Tea Party.
At around 5:15 am the next morning, I walked into the dark living room and found Saffron asleep on the couch.
And the entire tea party set up completely dismantled.
The table was bare. The plates stacked up together, the centerpiece scattered, and all I could think, WHAT HAPPENED HERE????
I flipped on the light, woke up my daughter, and turned on the TV to find the royal wedding coverage.
After she’d rubbed her eyes open, I asked her what happened? Why had she taken everything apart? Her response? “I was looking for a blanket.”
I was speechless.
As she looked at me, waiting for my response, I had about four seconds to make a decision.
Let it go or get upset.
I opted to let it go.
The rest of the morning went fine. I baked our muffins, sliced our fruit, filled our teacups with milk. Saffron put everything back on the table, not in the exact way I’d originally set it, but it worked. We watched the bride get out of the car. I told her she would see this same moment hundreds of times during her life. If necessary, I think I could reenact Princess Diana’s moment and probably Kate’s too.
I cried during Bishop Michael Bruce Curry’s sermon. And giggled at the stunned faces of the British elite hearing words like “a balm in Gilead” and “study war no more” for likely the first time. Also mad respect for him staying in the pulpit when I know everything in him wanted to move around.
We discussed why there wouldn’t be a “you may now kiss the bride” moment and defined what a heart attack was (and more importantly, was not). I tried not to laugh when Saffron said she thought the Queen would be younger. “She’s as old as GG was!” And assured her the country was running fine in spite of the Queen’s age.
We talked about the veil and the dress and the little kids and why they weren’t throwing flower petals on the aisle. I tried to tell her how Stand By Me had been my favorite song when I was a kid and that it was her godmother’s favorite song back then too.
All in all, her weird need to search for a blanket underneath a set table for a tea party did not ruin the experience.
Although, I completely forgot the hats and pearl necklaces in my bumfuzzled state.
But we ate, we watched, we laughed, we learned a few things, and we gave my romantic Grandmother’s tea set a good and proper few hours of usefulness.
Had I let my surprise and frustration get the better of me, I would have been the one who ruined it.
Not my miracle daughter.
We all have those moments in our days when we face something definitely not on the schedule, and we get to decide to allow something unscripted to ruin our day or work with it. I often feel like those dignified Brits sitting there listening to an enthusiastic pastor passionately preaching about God and love…stunned and uncomfortable. But I still get to choose.
And that morning, when my daughter undid an evening of work and a week’s worth of planning just to see what was underneath it all, I chose romance and fairytales and fun.
Grandmother would have been proud.