Ida was one of those 81 year old ladies who still dusted every day, especially her little hutch filled with fine china. There was a TV on top of it now but she still used the glass cabinet for her dishes. She had been single for about a year living in a studio apartment in the senior citizens building on church property. Widowed, that is. For the fourth time. Even now Ida had a new boyfriend. She swore she would not marry again because her four husbands had been fairly well off and her new boyfriend was not. It wasn’t easy to find men when you were 81 so now that she found one that was single, aware and ambulatory she wasn’t going to complain.
Playing bridge and lunching with ladies were her favorite pastimes. She tried to fit in an occasional meal with a granddaughter but she didn’t like cooking and wasn’t really a family oriented woman. Her daughters had married beneath them so she wasn’t anxious to have their children and grandchildren in her home messing up the dining room table with crayons or eating sticky jelly sandwiches.
Ida didn’t watch the news on television. She said it was too depressing to see what all those awful people and crazy politicians were doing to her country. Her son had served in World War II to fight for freedom. Twenty years later the hippies had taken over and twenty years after that, women were going to work even if they didn’t have to; teenagers were having babies that were being raised by their grandparents. Not Ida. She would have no part of that world.
Over lunch one day, her friend Catherine mentioned that she had heard about tea parties on the news. Ida was delighted. She hadn’t had a tea party in years. Her friends spent too much time with their families and besides, when she had nothing better to do, she would call Joseph and invite him over to watch an old movie on TV. Neither one of them could drive anymore so they didn’t go out much.
Ida called her daughter Marilyn and asked her to bring her a box of invitations from the Hallmark store. The next day, she filled them out, stamped them and put them in the mailbox in the lobby. Although they were all going to people who lived in her building it would be rude to just deliver them to the mailboxes without going through the post.
As she expected, three ladies out of six R.S.V.P.’d using the cards enclosed with the invitations. Her mother always taught her to invite twice as many people to a party as you wanted because only half would attend anyway.
She prepared the small table with white doilies and her china tea set. Marilyn had fulfilled her request to bring a box of crumpets from the bakery a block away. She set one on each cake plate next to the tea cups. One by one her friends started arriving dressed in their Sunday best. The table was no bigger than a bridge table.
Melanie was curious and asked Ida, “What is the occasion?”
“Well, I heard someone talking in the dining room a couple of weeks ago about the tea parties. I was so happy to hear that they had come back into fashion I thought I’d be the first in the building to have one!”