Next week we will be having a joint birthday party for Meg and several of her classmates. Their birthdays all fall so close together, it only makes sense to have a joint party, since they would all invite the same guests. This is Meg's second year for a joint party and last year at her birthday I was preoccupied by the fact I was about to go into labor any day with Baby Anne (she was born three days after Meg's birthday). So, I wanted to do something special on Meg's actual birthday this year. Meg wanted a tea party. Specifically, Meg wanted a tea party using a set of beautiful dessert china I inherited from my grandmother.
My grandmother and I had similar taste. We both loved beautiful antique furniture (who doesn't?) and we loved dainty Victorian fabrics and dishes. Due to this similar taste, many of my grandmother's beautiful belongings were given to me. I have her dining room set as well as two beautiful small antique tables that sit in our living room (and give our living room a great deal of its character). I also have much of her china and silver. (Note to my sister and/or niece: I have way more silver trays than I will ever use, so if you ever feel the need to claim a few of those, feel free.)
Among my favorite inherited items is a set of dessert china with beautiful pink flowers. In my grandmother's house, it was in her china cabinet closest to her dining room table. For years and years, I admired it, but never dreamed of touching it. Since it has become my china, I have had it packed carefully in two toile fabric covered boxes. Now Meg was asking me to use that precious china for a tea party for two six year olds, a five year old and a four year old.
I often joke that I like to think my grandmother is somewhere smiling that my family is using her dining room table, but in all honesty she is probably horrified at the abuse her precious table receives on a daily basis. My grandmother had a formal dining room. We have one table and it must be used for all of our meals, art projects, science experiments and business meetings. Now, there was the great possibility that I was about to direct similar abuse to my grandmother's china.
That being said, my general philosophy is that stuff--no matter how beautiful--is meant to be used. The china cabinet, which is part of our dining room set, received its greatest damage while sitting in storage due to a leak in the storage unit. A plate and cup from the dessert china were both somehow chipped while stored "safely" in a well-padded box. If things are damaged while carefully put away out of use, then why not pull them out, use them and make a little girl very happy on her sixth birthday. Besides, my grandmother would have loved that Meg was so mesmerized by this china. I'm not sure she would have let her use it, but she would have liked how much Meg appreciated it.
Meg and Clare helped me unpack the china and wash it. They set the table and created a beautiful tea party. Making the tea party all the more special was the adorable Peter Rabbit teapot my mom gave Meg, which you can see in the picture above. The cake is also pictured. The cake itself was made from a rainbow cake mix, which was surprisingly challenging considering it was from a box. As for decorating the cake, we went shopping the night before the tea party and bought icing, sprinkles, star cookies and gum drops. I gave these items to the girls and gave them total freedom in decorating. As you can see, they had a great deal of fun with that.
Our guests (whom Clare kept referring to as our customers--apparently she'll be opening her own tea shop in a few years, so perhaps all those silver trays can be put to productive use) included one of Meg's friends who has moved out of the area (and wouldn't be able to attend the joint party next week) and one of Meg's friends who lives in our neighborhood. The girls arrived in beautiful Sunday dresses and used their best tea party manners. Meg and Clare wore perfect matching tea party dresses sent to them by my mother-in-law. Not a plate, cup or saucer was broken. In fact, rather than packing the china away again, we found a place in our cabinets to store the china and used it when we had guests over for dessert on Thanksgiving evening.