It had been one of those days. Make it one of those weeks. The laundry was heaped beside the broken machine, Nancy had missed two important phone calls while the motor clunked and then died, and finally she had arrived too late at the bank to cash a check (her cash card had gone AWOL). To complete the frustrations, her cat, Lady Plushbottom, had horked up a hairball on her bed.
Sitting disconsolately at the kitchen table, spooning up some yogurt with a questionable expiration date, Nancy thought back to the carefree days of childhood. There had been a gaggle of devoted stuffed animals, a cozy room, and a friend or two who were not too busy. And there had been tea parties. She had loved tea parties – her best china tea set, cookies with sprinkles, and juice all laid out on a prettily set table.
“That was happiness,” Nancy told her cat. She looked around at her counters piled with empty food cartons, unwashed mugs and the detritus of several meals eaten on the run. Her life was just too damn busy. No time, it seemed, to relax and savor the ordinary.
“I want a tea party,” Nancy whispered to Lady Plushbottom. The cat looked up briefly from her grooming regimen.
Nancy sat back. “And why not?” she demanded. “I deserve it!”
A jolt of happy anticipation shot through her veins. With renewed purpose she tackled the Everest of dirty dishes. She wiped, swiped and swished the dishes around until the dishwasher was full and the counter was spotless. Emptying the garbage took care of the smell that had been lingering on the edge of her senses.
Nancy was zipping up the dress that was too frilly for work when her friend Ellen rang up to see if she wanted to hit the sales.
“Nope,” Nancy laughed, too euphoric to hide her actions. “I’m having a tea party, just like when I was a kid.”
“Tea party – you know, juice from a tea pot, cookies, and maybe little sandwiches on doilies.”
“Doilies?” There was a pause. “Sounds fancy,” Ellen said. “Are you inviting a friend, or is this a solo event?”
“It’s a tea party…” Nancy hesitated. “…kind of silly, really. Do you want to come?”
Ellen’s voice developed a new lilt. “I could use a fancy day. Really. I’ll be there in an hour and I’ll bring the cookies and juice.”
With a friend on the way, Nancy went into high gear. She threw her mother’s lace tablecloth over the table, unearthed her grandmother’s antique tea set, and shooing Lady Plushbottom from the table, set out quickly polished silver cutlery.
Nancy looked and looked and smiled. She felt silly, and young and…happy, for no good reason.
Ellen arrived just as Nancy was adding sugar cubes to the sugar bowl. Ellen grabbed one and popped it into her mouth.
“Years,” she said. “It’s been years since I ate sugar cubes…and they are so good!”
Nancy spooned some tuna onto a saucer for her kitty and then they sat at the frilly table. With the air of a magician, Ellen produced a bottle of champagne to mix with the orange juice in the tea pot. She arranged a dozen bakery cookies on a porcelain plate decorated with roses. Nancy went into her cupboard for the box of chocolates she had been hoarding.
With classical music swelling in the background, they toasted each other,remembered their tea party days, laughed about the vagaries of life, and felt the tensions of the world seep away.
As the sky darkened, they leaned back, replete and still giggly. Ellen got up, slowly pulled on her coat and hugged her friend. “Let me know,” she whispered.
“Let you know what?” Nancy hugged her back.
“When you are holding your next Fancy Day. I didn’t know how much I needed it.”
As Ellen disappeared into the night, Nancy lifted Lady Plushbottom into her lap, and murmured, “Happy Fancy Day, Lady Plushbottom…and may we have many more.”