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Afternoon Tea

By Shelly Noonan
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #83, 2008.

Why not revive this genteel English pastime?
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Shelley Noonan

What is there about a pleasant 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 eight blocks to my German grandparents’ house. Inside the 1950’s white cottage with a steep red roof were three people I adored.

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 laughter would persist until tears ran down their crinkled faces. In this strict household, children were to be seen and not heard. But I didn’t mind one bit. At that moment in time, I was safe, happy, and with people I loved.

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 an opportunity to read aloud the classics were experienced during 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 isn’t all that easy. Teatime became an enjoyable event to make the “medicine” of life go down a bit easier.

My daughter and I had a weekly Tea Time 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 rubbing 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 flowed 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 Tea Time is just for women, my sons enjoyed this time as well. Like most family traditions, tea with my sons developed on its own. My sons, aged 16-18, 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 events, class assignments, and any other item they wished to talk about. Oftentimes, I would read aloud from a book we were both 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 watermark of afternoon tea continues to permeate my life. I have been blessed to enjoy afternoon tea with my husband at a castle in Ireland and at a fine hotel in London. These lavish experiences give me an appreciation for the form and elegance of a proper Tea Time.

I have come to the conclusion that 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 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.

Shelley Noonan is a homeschool veteran, popular conference speaker and coauthor of four books including The Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood. Visit her online here.

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