Christmas Tea

      Stella, Gloria, and I sipped tea in Stella’s living room lit only by a small cut glass lamp on her Chippendale secretary and warm afternoon light peeping through the plantation shutters behind her tree overloaded with white lights. She had greeted us by apologizing for not having a cozy fire, because she was still having flashes even after turning back the thermostat.
      Fifteen Decembers had passed and in addition to lunch once a month with two of my prissier friends, we took turns as hostesses for a tea in our homes. It felt festive to sip tea and tell stories. We felt philanthropic when we wrote checks to a charity chosen by the hostess. The tea was accompanied by ham biscuits, cheese straws, cubes of Claxton fruit cake, bourbon balls and meringue cookies.
      Taffeta ribbon of purple and gold in a wide harlequin pattern wound through the verdant live pine garland draped on the stair rail. The same ribbon on her paneled front door was tied into a humongous bow that held a spray of mixed greenery. Each diamond shape within the ribbon sported a rhinestone stud that reflected the multi-sized white bulbs on her tree. The same ribbon was repeated in smaller bows at the base of white amaryllises balancing each end of the buffet in the adjoining dining room. You could almost feel Martha Stewart lurking in the corners.
      Steam from the tea wafted through the air like the stories of how our darling children and grandchildren are growing up too fast; and complaints of how technology occupies too much of their precious time.
      Our conversation turned to the overwhelming success of vampire movies—all the rage with our granddaughters and the YA crowd in general. We wondered if their parents had clued them into the fact that sex in marriage is quite unlike what they see on that super-sized screen—dramatic crescendos of music accompanying the lust between young heart throbs and starlets who are seen in gyratory pursuits of each other in the previews of these movies.
      This led to our specific observation of couples like naked Ann Hathaway and that cute drug salesman – what’s his name? We had all noticed how the actors in these roles find it extremely difficult to restrain themselves over the prospect of “doin’ it.”  These movie couples are often seen rushing up stairs in search of a flat place or just settling for the island in their kitchens. A Hansel and Gretel trail of garments is always strewn behind them. They tear at each other’s clothes, ripping off shirts and blouses and sending buttons flying across the room.
      Gloria declared her perplexity as to why they do this, “We all know that someone’s got to sew those buttons back on.”
      Stella commiserated, “They just don’t think that way. It’s so unlike being real-life wives.”


Betty Bell Brown

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