The perfect cup of tea

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of Inspired Home magazine.

My mom taught in the Catholic school system for a number of years, and for many Decembers, she, a group of her teacher friends and I attended the Presentation Sisters’ Christmas tea. It was an annual event that we all looked forward to: the beautiful tea settings, the elegant men dressed in tuxedos, serving cup after cup of hot tea into our fine bone china teacups, the delicate sandwiches and scones, the music, the conversations and hearing about the actual reason behind the tea in the first place, to raise money for the Sisters’ emergency assistance fund.

In 2004, as we were leaving the tea, my mom got a phone call that my grandma had fallen in her nursing home room. Grandma was nearing 92 years old, and while her mental state was impeccable, her physical state was not. We met her at the emergency room, and I’ll never forget how she looked at me from that bed; it told me she knew she was nearing the end. Grandma died about 10 days after that phone call, and we were all simultaneously sad that she wouldn’t be with us for Christmas and delighted to imagine what kind of first Christmas she would be having in Heaven.

Grandma had had a number of elegant tea cups and saucers as well as silver teapots and other dishes associated with an afternoon tea. Sometime in the spring after Grandma died, my mom and I decided to donate the majority of those beautiful things to the Presentation Sisters because we wanted them to get used and be enjoyed by others. Many of these were objects I had grown up gazing at in wonder through the glass doors of her china hutch, but I knew I didn’t have room for them in my current life, so it made sense to pass them along.

The Sisters accepted Grandma’s teapots, flowered cups and saucers and dishes with great appreciation, oohing and aahhing along with us as we unpacked them at the Convent.

As the next Christmas season approached, I started thinking about the Christmas tea. I put out a small ask to the Universe that I see something of Grandma’s when we got there. I wanted to know that her things were being used and loved in this new way, like I had always loved them.

As we walked through the room, past other tables to find our assigned seats, I found myself searching for the purple violet teacup and saucer, the silver teapot, the three-tiered cake stand, but I didn’t see anything I recognized.

And then I was seated and looked down, and directly in front of me was one of Grandma’s most beautiful teacups sets. The delicately painted floral pattern was as beautiful as I remembered it from all my years of looking at it at her house. That little teacup made me happy and sad: Grandma might not be physically here anymore, but her love of beautiful things lived on, and I got to enjoy them in this very special way.