We were young twenty-somethings, just settled in a new apartment when a large box arrived—an unexpected box. It was a gift from my husband’s grandparents who had just returned from a trip back to Ireland, the country they had both emigrated from years before.
Inside we found a lovely tea set.
To say we were delighted and surprised would be an understatement. We were at the time, living together, unmarried, with no nuptials planned anytime soon. It was, it seemed, a blessing of sorts.
A sign that they had faith in our union?
Perhaps, though its first service would be steeped in panic, sweetened with kindness and humor.
It was soon after receiving the box that we received word that “Big” Nan was coming to visit my husband’s parents. Nan stood nearly 5’3”, petite and utterly charming. Her Irish brogue as sweet as the apple crisp I would present at our first tea service.
Upon hearing the news I suggested we invite Nan for tea. And yes, my husband agreed. He promised to call his mother and arrange a date. But there was no rush, Nan would be visiting for nearly a week, plenty of time to make arrangements.
Or so we thought.
It was Friday, late afternoon when the call came. “Nan and I want to stop by for a visit,” my mother-in-law said, “and we’re on our way.”
What? I couldn’t refuse them, but I was alone. Their son/grandson had just left. Ten minutes earlier he jumped into the passenger seat of his buddy’s 1970s AMC Javelin and pulled away. This was before cell phones. No way to get in touch, no way to bring him back.
I was on my own. And if nothing else, I had to serve tea.
With a 20-minute window to pull things together I peeled a few apples, spread them in a baking dish, dotted them with butter and brown sugar and turned the oven on. Though I’ve overcome my early shyness, this was a stretch for me. I was nervous.
Stumbling through my first tea service, I forgot to put out forks for the apple crisp, only recognizing my omission when I saw sweet little Nan politely eating her dessert with one of the souvenir spoons I had laid out for stirring our tea.
Oh, we laughed, and they gushed over the dessert, the apartment, and how nice it was to visit. Their kindness soothing my nerves.
It was a lovely visit.
And then they, too, pulled away . . . 10 minutes before the return of my Irish sweetheart.
This is a Calendar of Days post.