Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Party at the Tea Room

It’s strange how the first sight of something can stay in your mind forever. My impression of what I saw that day was so different from reality.
Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix /

We lived in a semi-rural area from the time I was two until I was nine. Across the field behind our house was a small farm. The driveway was very long with pine trees lining each side all the way up to the house. At the entrance to the driveway, at the road, was a wooden sign. It was painted in beautiful curly queue cursive writing Tea Room with a big hand painted red rose next to the words. Now what a tearoom was I didn’t know then, nor do I really know now.

The house wasn’t big, but everything about it looked like the cottages seen in storybooks. Rose bushes grew along the front of the house. Their rambling branched reaching up to the big picture window that was framed inside with delicate white lace curtains. The white clapboard siding was as white as the clean white sheets dancing in the wind on the backyard clothesline.  Dwarfing the house in the back were two huge barns. These barns were real wooden barns, not like the metal buildings that try to pass for barns today (remember this was the fifties).

As I learned later, this was the original home site for the farm that our home and our neighbor’s homes once were a part of. We lived in one of the newer houses in the development; later two more would be built across the street. A brother and sister, along with her husband, lived in the cute little cottage. The farm had belonged to their parents, and their grandparents. Some of the land surrounding us was still farmed by Uncle Andy, the brother. All of the kids loved him. Uncle Andy drove a very old tractor and wore bib overalls. The thing that made him stand out was the big floppy wide brimmed hat and big work gloves. Both covered with dirt. I think those were the only hat and gloves he ever owned and the dirt was from every year he farmed the land. Every time us kids heard his tractor chugging down our gravel road we would run out to wave at him. Each time he waved back we squealed with delight as if it were the first time he acknowledged us. We were important people being singled out by Uncle Andy.

Uncle Andy’s sister would come by sometimes and talk to the neighbors. She was tall, with a scary looking face that had too much red on her cheeks and lips. Tight, little light brown, non-combed out pin curls hugged her head. Anyone who is old enough to remember pin curls knows what I’m talking about. The hair would be wound in a circle close to the scalp and kept in place with bobby pins. When the bobby pins were taken out, the hair would normally be combed or brushed, otherwise they stayed in their wound position, stiffly close to the scalp. This is how she wore it, not combed out. The other scary thing about the sister was her big, tall, black poodle, Frenchie. His legs and tail were shaved except for a poof ball of fur at the end. We all stayed away from that giant French monster dog. He was mean, but I think he didn’t want to be he was just embarrassed at how his fur was styled.  The sister, I never knew her name, but she either came around our neighborhood because she missed her old farmland, or to make sure the neighbors had no complaints about their houses. He husband was the builder.

One day all the ladies in the neighbor went to the “Tea Room”. Since I was only four, and my brother only a baby, we went along too. I was worried about seeing Frenchie, and the sister. Not only did the tearoom have the lace curtains I had seen from outside, but a matching lace tablecloth covering a big round table. Only the large carved claw feet were visible from under the cloth, and to a four-year old I knew a dragon must have been hiding under there. The Victorian couch and chairs each had lace doilies on the back where your head rested. There were lamps with glass shades adorn with shiny hanging crystals, each catching the beams of light streaming in through the window.  But the best things were the cookies. Small white butter cookies, all different shapes, round – diamond – square. They were generously covered with light pink frosting, invitingly sitting on big crystal plates.

It wasn’t much of a party in my opinion. All the ladies sat talking at once, drinking tea out of thin china cups that were beautiful decorated with red roses. I think they would have been more comfortable drinking out of their own chipped coffee cups.  I didn’t have tea, but orange juice in a bright red aluminum cup, too big for me to hold. My suggestion is to never drink acidy orange juice from aluminum; it causes a strange reaction in your mouth. After an eternity of listening to the humming chatter, the sister’s husband came up to me and asked if I’d like to see something outside. He may have picked me, and not the other little girls, because I was dressed in shorts and canvas shoes, not lacy dresses and patent leather dress shoes. Of course I jumped at the opportunity to go outside.

He took me through the kitchen and out the back door. We stepped down the back porch on to the dirt driveway, past a well pump and toward the barn.  I had only seen this barn from a distance while standing in my back yard. I always thought it was just like our garage, but up close it was a strange shaped building and much larger than our garage. The huge front door was similar to all the garage doors I had seen except it went sideways and not up. We walked on straw and dirt as he guided me to the back of the barn. The ceiling seemed higher than I thought any could be. The scent in the barn was a warm, organic scent, and I liked it. Finally we reached our destination. It was a large stall at the back of the barn.

“Now sweetie, you call her and see if she will come over.”

I had no idea who we were calling. Was there a little girl living here that I could play with, so far all my playmates were boys. And what did I call? I didn’t know her name.

“ Call for Lucy. Just call, come here Lucy, and she should come over to us.”

It was fine with me to have a friend named Lucy, as long as she liked to play the same things that I did. So I shouted out “Lucy”, as loud as I could. No one came. Maybe Lucy was playing with someone else. The brother told me to try again, louder.  So I screamed as loud as my tiny voice could, “LUCY”!  This time I heard something from outside the small door at the back of the stall.  I waited for my new playmate to enter through the door. What would she look like? Would her hair be curly like mine? Would she be skinny or chubby? Would she dress like me so we both could get dirty without worry? So many questions filled my mind in the short time it took Lucy to make her entrance.

“Her she comes. I can see her coming to the door now,” the brother told me with excitement in his voice.

Finally my new friend would be here. Slowly Lucy walked in. My jaw dropped. Well she didn’t dress like me, nor was she as short or skinny as me. I watched as the black and white giant cow made her way over to the gate of the stall.  She looked down at me. I looked up, way up at her. I’d never seen a cow. I never knew they were giants.  And, I was sure this wasn’t my new playmate.

I never went back to the tea room, and I never saw the cow again, or any cow. We moved to the city several years later, and I had no chance of seeing a cow there. When I was in my early twenties a group of us went on a picnic in the country. Our day was relaxed as we sat all alone by the clear creek. Then a strange loud noise interrupted the calming country sounds. It sounded vaguely familiar.  Walking slowly along the creek, calling to us was a black and white cow.  I started to laugh. Like I said, it’s strange how the first sight of something sticks with you – this day I realized cows aren’t giants, only in the memory of a four year old.

© Copyright 2013   Eileen A Partak