Becky slipped ‘Little Girl Etiquette,’ under her seat cushion. Last minute cribbing wouldn’t do. The chapter on tea parties taught her so much.
This would be her first tea party. She planned for perfection.
The white garden table, set with dainty cups and saucers, looked exactly like the picture in her book. Her mother provided fresh cookies and juice (pretend tea), for her guests to sip. She adjusted a napkin and placed the plastic spoon, just so.
She only needed Antonia, Cindy and their companions to arrive. Becky’s favorite Barbie doll already sat at the table. Several cushions elevated her to table level, where she could enjoy the festivities.
“Are you comfy, Barbie? Anything I can get you?”
Barbie said, “Math is hard.”
Becky smiled. “Your friend Dolly should be here soon.” Barbie smiled.
Dolly was Cindy’s favorite doll. Cindy’s older sister, Antonia would also come. Becky hoped she wouldn’t bring that grumpy, stuffed panda, Tony. ‘Anyone but Tony,’ she thought. ‘He’s so opinionated.’
Standing tall, she announced to the garden, “We’ll have no obstreperous guests. Not on my watch.” She thought, ‘I need to ask Daddy what that means, again.’ But it seemed to fit.
Her mother waved from the window.
Becky said, “I’ll be right back,” and ran into the house.
Inside, Becky’s mother chatted with the girls and their mother. Antonia and Cindy held Tony and Dolly, who appeared to dance when Becky came in. Cindy’s mother wished them a fun party and left.
Becky glanced at Tony. ‘It’s okay. We’ll have fun, anyway.’ She said, “Everything’s ready. Let’s go.”
The three little girls giggled and ran outside with their toys in tow. They situated Dolly and Tony in their chairs and the girls sat beside them.
Becky welcomed everyone.
“Who wants tea?” She began to pour ‘tea’ into tiny cups from the flowered pot.
Antonia asked, “Do you have iced tea?” Becky looked confused. “I’m sorry, but Tony dislikes hot tea.”
“Well, this isn’t actually hot.” She whispered, “It’s really apple juice. Is that okay with Tony?”
“But it’s actually that Tony doesn’t like the kinds of people who frequent tea parlors.”
Cindy said, “But we’re in a garden, not…”
Becky said, “Antonia, please tell your obstreperous bear that he came to a tea party. Why did he come, if he doesn’t want to socialize over a refreshing drink?”
Cindy said, “I heard tea parties have a long tradition in polite society.”
Antonia continued. “He thinks they’re opium dens for lightweights.”
Cindy asked, “What’s opium?”
No one answered.
Becky tried to regain control. “Tony is so sophisticated. Such big words for a panda.”
“We’re very proud of Tony. He’s traveled the world. A very astute bear.”
Becky refilled cups and offered the cookie plate.
Cindy grabbed two. “Dolly wants one too.”
Becky said, “He must like tea, though. Pandas are from China. Doesn’t China have lots of tea?”
Antonia shook her head. “Tony favors bamboo. He says he wouldn’t trade a plate of bamboo for all the tea in China…”
Becky looked to Cindy for support. “How are you today, Dolly? Thank you for coming.”
Cindy said, “Dolly loves these cookies. Did you make them?”
“No. I can’t make cookies without Mom’s help, yet. She got them from a bakery.”
“Can Dolly have another?”
“Of course, she may. Take two. And here’s more tea for you.” Becky filled the tiny cups.
“Dolly says ‘thank you, Becky.’”
“You’re very welcome, Dolly.”
Becky looked around the table. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. Except for Tony, who seemed to be glaring at her.
Becky leaned in. “Can I get you something else, Tony? Are you sure you wouldn’t like some tea?”
Antonia said, “He’s sure, Beck. He meant what he said.”
“You’re only putting words in his mouth, Antonia. Stop it.”
“You don’t think he can speak for himself?”
“Let him.” Becky looked at Tony. He sat silently. “See? Nothing to say.”
“Depends on who he’s talking to. I think his silence speaks volumes.”
Barbie said, “Math is hard.”
Antonia continued, “Sometimes, the less said, the better.”
Becky said, “I have a surprise. I looked up how to read tea leaves. Who wants to go first?”
Cindy said, “Let Dolly.”
Becky leaned over the doll’s cup and murmured. “Hmmm… What do you see?”
“Yeah, on the side of the cup.”
“No. I mean the tea leaves. Do they suggest something to you?”
“I don’t see tea leaves. Isn’t it juice?”
“We’re pretending, Cindy.”
“Oh. Then Dolly says she sees… an elephant.”
“Very good. That means you have a good memory. And that you will travel to exotic places.” Becky looked at Tony. “Would you like me to read your tea leaves, Tony?”
Antonia said, “Tony doesn’t approve of necromancy.”
Becky couldn’t believe it. “Enough, Antonia. It’s not necromancy. I’m reading tea leaves.”
“No. It’s not.”
“He thinks you’re putting on airs.”
“Well I think he’s putting on hairs.”
“He needs a shave.”
“He’s a bear.”
“Oh, so, tell me. Are you putting on bears?”
“This is stupid, Becky. Are you putting me on? I’m not a bear.”
“He’s not a bear either.”
“Actually, he’s a panda. You’re silly.”
“Well I think you’re silly. You and your elitist panda. With his big words.”
“Being sophisticated doesn’t make you an elitist.”
Becky leaned in. “Being a sack of kapok doesn’t make you a panda, either.”
Even the birds in the trees went silent at that. Tony glared.
Antonia looked at Barbie, who may have giggled. She said, “Math is hard.”
Ignoring Barbie, Antonia pushed her plate away. “I can’t believe you would say that to a guest. Where did you learn manners?”
Becky stood. “Manners? Why would someone who doesn’t like tea, come to a tea party? It’s ridiculous.”
“We were invited. Remember?”
“You didn’t have to come.”
“I think it’s time to go.” Antonia stood and grabbed Tony. “Are we allowed to leave?”
Becky curtsied. “Be my guest…”
Cindy picked up Dolly. “Oops. Tea party’s over.” She grabbed a handful of cookies.
The trio marched to the house. Barbie stayed behind.
Becky’s mother looked surprised. “Tea party over already?” No one responded. “Well, I’ll drive you home.”
Antonia said, “That’s okay. It’s only a block. I have a key.”
“Alright. If you’re sure.”
Antonia and Cindy nodded.
“Okay, then. Bye. Thanks for coming.” She looked at Becky.
Becky chirped, “Thanks guys. Come again.”
The girls left.
Becky returned to the garden and the remains of her tea party. Perched atop her cushions, Barbie smiled.
Becky sat and took a sip of her ‘tea.’ “That went pretty well. Don’t you think?”