The Tea Party
4247 Maplewood Dr.
Saturday, January 8, 1995
They should be here soon, Lee thought. He placed the chips and guacamole on the coffee table in front of the sofa and switched on the set, making sure it was turned to the right channel. Dallas versus the Packers--it should be a good game--and he had money riding on the Packers. Outside it had started to snow--a thin layer of white had begun to cover the grass. Just a few small flurries was what the weatherman had predicted; hopefully he was right.
“I can spell hat, H.A.T, I can spell cat, C. A. T--” Seated at the tea-party table and chair set that she’d gotten this last Christmas and dressed in her tiara and purple feather boa, Jenna looked every inch the tea-party hostess. She sang softly as she poured kool-aid from her little pitcher into the plastic teacups. “I can spell mat, M. A. T.--” the high note on the ‘t’ was even in tune--almost in tune. “But I can’t spell hippopotamus.”
Her kindergarten graduation song. Watching his daughter Lee couldn’t suppress the smile that spread across his face.
“Hey there, munchkin,” he crouched beside the table. “How’s the party going?”
“Fine,” Jenna replied. “Do you want to sit and have some tea, Daddy?”
“Ahh--not right now,” Lee told her. “Daddy’s going to watch a game on TV--but maybe later, huh?”
“Okay.” The kool-aid poured, Jenna began to place the cups around the table in front of the ‘guests’. “Is Billy coming?”
“Yeah, Billy’s coming--and Leatherneck.”
“Francine too?” Jenna carefully poured more kool-aid.
“No, not Francine, munchkin--she doesn’t really like football that much. So--who’s here at your party?”
“Well--there’s Bella ,” Jenna pointed to the Cabbage Patch Doll. “And Mr. Moose--’cept Mr. Moose doesn’t want to sit next to Bella.”
“Why doesn’t he want to sit next to Bella?” Lee asked.
“Because,” Jenna explained patiently, “she doesn’t like mooses.”
Of course--somehow he should’ve seen that one coming. “Who’s that?” he asked, pointing to the stuffed unicorn.
“She’s Mary Poppins,” Jenna said. That made sense, Lee thought. It was her favorite movie at the moment, after all. “And that’s Mr. Scarecrow. But Barney couldn’t come.”
Thank heavens for small mercies--over the years he’d had more than his fill of the purple dinosaur. He noticed that Jenna placed two cups of kool-aid in front of the Scarecrow.
“Why does he get two?” he asked.
“Because Scarecrows get more thirsty.” Jenna reached across the table to grab a foil-covered paper plate--that must be the cookies that Amanda had helped her make earlier.
“Here--let me get the foil for you.” Lee unwrapped the plate and balled the foil up in his hands--he looked down at the cookies. Big cookies--with chocolate chip and macadamia nuts. Amanda’s cookies--just looking at them made his mouth water. He watched as Jenna placed the cookies around the table--once again, Mr. Scarecrow got two instead of one. Stood to reason--if they got more thirsty they got more hungry as well.
“Munchkin--” he began. “You know that Daddies are like scarecrows--they get more hungry too. Can Daddy maybe have a cookie?”
“No,” Jenna shook her head--a stubborn expression on her small face.
“Tea party only.”
Tea party only. “But munchkin--I really think--” his voice broke off as the doorbell rang.
Jenna smiled. “You need to get the door, Daddy.”
SMK SMK SMK SMK
“You actually put money on the Packers?” Leatherneck said as they came into the family room. “Come on—Dallas is gonna wipe the floor with them.”
“He has a point, Lee,” Billy replied. “And you know I’m not a Dallas fan.”
“You do know that the game hasn’t started yet, right?” Lee pointed out.
Leatherneck shook his head. “Yeah, buddy—you keep telling yourself that. Hi there, Jenna.”
“Hi,” Jenna greeted them with a smile as she sipped her kool-aid. “I’m having a tea party.”
“I can see that,” Billy crouched down to his goddaughter’s level. “Who are these guests?”
“That’s Bella—“ Jenna pointed. “That’s Mary Poppins—and that’s Mr. Moose and Mr. Scarecrow.”
“Good guests,” Billy replied. “And those look like some awfully good cookies, you know.”
“Uh-huh,” Jenna nodded solemnly. “Mommy made them for me.”
Leatherneck looked at Lee. “Chocolate and macadamia?”
Lee nodded. “Yeah.”
“Your mommy makes wonderful cookies,” Billy said, his hand reaching towards the plate in the middle of the table—
“Ahh, Billy, I don’t think—” Lee began.
“No!” Before Billy could reach the plate Jenna’s hands closed over it protectively. “Tea party only.”
“That’s just what she said to me,” Lee told the Section Chief. “Tea party only.”
“I see.” Moments passed; Lee could practically see the wheels in Billy’s head turning. “Jenna, listen. I know most of the cookies are for your tea party, but couldn’t we maybe have just a couple?”
“Mommy said,” Jenna replied, her mouth sat in a stubborn line. “She said they were all for my party.”
The game was just about to start; in the background Lee could hear the familiar NFL theme. The guacamole and chips he’d bought from the store sat on the coffee table—they still looked pretty good, but when compared to the cookies—
Amanda’s cookies—the three men exchanged glances.
“Don’t you want to watch the game?” Jenna asked them suddenly.
“Yeah, munchkin,” Lee ruffled Jenna’s hair. “We’ll watch the game—let us know if you need anything.”
“I will, Daddy.”
“Good.” Lee said.
Nothing else to do—he and Leatherneck sat on the sofa while Billy grabbed the recliner. The first ten minutes of the game passed with relative silence between the three men—every couple of minutes they found their eyes drawn to Jenna’s little tea-table and the cookies, of course—always the cookies. Jenna, on the other hand, chatted animatedly to herself as she continued her party, seemingly unaware that she was the focus of their attention.
“Would you like some tea, Mr. Moose?” she asked, picking up the pitcher.
“Oh I’m sorry—there’s no more tea today. We drank it all up.”
Out of tea. Maybe this was their chance.
“You know, munchkin—if you want to go and get some more kool-aid from the kitchen you can—we’ll watch everything for you.”
“Yes we certainly will,” Billy added.
“Well—” his daughter tilted her head to one side as she appeared to consider. “No—I can’t. Mommy says the pitcher is too heavy.”
Amanda was right, Lee knew. And if Jenna spilled kool-aid on the kitchen floor or the carpet she’d never let him forget it. Foiled again—he let out his breath in a quiet sigh of frustration.
“Hey Jenna, you remember that really cool remote –controlled car I showed you one day?” Leatherneck said.
“Yes,” Jenna took a big bite of one of the cookies. “It was pretty.”
“That’s right,” Leatherneck replied. “I can give you that car if you give us just one little cookie—”
Jenna shook her head. “No—tea party only.”
Only one choice—the men exchanged glances.
SMK SMK SMK SMK
“Do you want more tea, Daddy?”
“No, thank you, munchkin,” Lee said. “I’m fine.”
“Don’t drop Mr. Scarecrow,” she told him.
“I won’t.” Lee held the toy in his lap and picked up another cookie, straightening the floppy hat he wore with one hand. The plastic bangle bracelet he wore on his wrist made a clacking sound against the tiny table. Tiny was the order of the day, actually. Tiny saucer and tiny everything; if he wasn’t careful he’d fall out of this chair.
A roar came from the game on the television as Troy Aikman scored yet another touchdown—the score now 14 to 6 with Dallas winning.
“Sure you don’t want to change your bet, Stetson?” Leatherneck grinned as he took a bite of his cookie.
“Your boa’s on crooked,” Lee told him.
“Maybe I like it crooked,” Leatherneck shot back.
“Whatever.” Lee took a big bite of his own cookie—he knew that the picture of Leatherneck sitting there with pink feathers draped around his neck would remain indelibly etched in his memory.
Not that he looked so hot himself.
What he wouldn’t do for Amanda’s cookies, he thought. And for his daughter. Jenna caught his eye and smiled—her small face lit up—despite everything he found himself smiling back.
“If you two would be quiet, I’m still trying to watch the game,” Billy adjusted his own boa.
“Napkins, please,” Jenna replied. “And crumbs—please watch crumbs!”
*the usual disclaimers apply--thanks to Cheryl for the idea and to Cheryl, Lynda, Ange, Sue and the other GG's for brainstorming and support. Hope you enjoy :)*