Tea Time and Emma Barr

Tea Time and Emma Barr
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When I was about 10, my grandmother's aunt was put to bed. She was a very proper lady and had left the Mennonite church when she married an Englishman. They moved to the "city"; Lancaster, Penna. He died before I was born but I think I remember he was a professor. Anyway, we loved to go with Grandma to "Emma Barr's house". It was always an adventure for she had wonderful antiques. We were always served tea in the antique cups because she said anything she had was to be used. (one side note, when she died all her things went on auction for she had no kids and no will and the teacup I always picked out Grandma told me went for $500.00.)
She would let us go to the china closet and let us pick out a cup. I had a special one that I have not seen since...it had Victorian ladies on it and so much gold trim. I know I liked it because I had to dress plain and I thought those ladies were just beautiful.

Emma always had delicate cookies and cakes and she would make scones. She would make lemon curd too. We would sit on her Victorian chairs and she would give us cloth napkins and special tea spoons. We would always be read a poem or short story or listen to some classical music.

Emma is Bedridden

Now back to what we did when she got put in bed. She was well to do and had a live-in companion. Emma never complained but once told grandma she missed those "teas" and the companion would bring her tea in a plastic mug. Now I know that must have troubled her a lot. Anyway Grandma went up to the attic one day and into her trunk. She pulled out a beautiful teapot and 4 teacups to match. We went down stairs and washed them and grandma had just made a tea cozy and we packed it all in a basket. Than grandma told me to get dressed up. We went to a big department store called Watt and Shands and got a tin of cookies. I remember being so mixed up because grandma was a master baker. We went to the candy section and got a few things and off again we went. She stopped at a house and told me to wait in the car. She came out with a pretty jar filled with lemon curd. Than on to Emmas we went. She pulled out a battenburg tablecloth,napkins and told the companion she needed the trays to be moved into the bedroom. She made the tea and into the bedroom we went. Emma had lost so much weight and looked like a doll sitting there. She had the sweetest bed jacket on. Grandma had made it and mailed it to her.(I still have the pattern...It is a Simplicity 1943 one. )

As grandma pulled out the teapot and teacups I heard Emma gasp. She shed a few tears for it was the teapot she and her husband had sent the mother in law from England on their honeymoon. But the lady would never use them because they were too special.

Well, we started a tradition that day 40 years ago. We went there every Saturday until she died. Grandma learned to make the scones and cookies and lemon curd and passed them onto me. I think Emma was in the bed about 5 more years.

Our Tea Basket Tradition

I forgot doing this until we moved next to a little old Scottish lady when Crystal was 2 and "Grandma Margaret" had us over every Tuesday for tea and we had Scottish goodies. When she was moved into a nursing home, Crystal and I went there each Tuesday morning and had tea, taking our basket.

I have done this for cancer patients,for shut-ins and for moms with young children that need to learn to relax. I have a child's tea set I take for the children and a few old books. But children need to learn when they are young, the value of tea time. It is a time when we pull away from the hurried life and sit and think about the joys and the finer things of life. It is a time to charge your batteries so to speak. A time to call a friend to come or take the tea to a precious shut-in. That is a gift of time. I have told you all before that I do not remember many gifts from my grandma but do I ever have memories of the TIME she gave me.

Click here for Donna's Tea Time recipes!


About The Author

Donna had the privilege of growing up in a Mennonite family in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She is married and lives in Georgia. Donna has 3 children and 3 grandchildren. She also writes a Column called Cooking with Don, which you can sign up for here and another list called Sites for Learning

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