Every spring on the prairies there were a zillion “teas” like we were supposed to be impressed that we were throwing off the heavy blankets of our strong coffee winters and embracing light and airy tea because nothing says spring like “tea.”
I mean it is not like we didn’t have cute little farm animals being born and pretty flowers blooming in the fields and even young men and young women getting frisky but oh my gosh … spring … tea … you get the connection right??
But we had many, many, many, spring teas. There were many. One such tea was the annual “Strawberry Tea.” They obviously were building on the “let’s throw words and concepts together that have zero connection or meaning to what we are doing” concept as I don’t ever remember there being any strawberries anywhere . . . not in the tea and not in the cakes. Strawberries don’t even grow in the spring! But we pretended.
We were women and we were all going to pretend that we all knew what we were doing and why it was happening. Women do that well. Look how we breeze through puberty and do the whole getting married, having babies and stuff. None of us has a clue what any of that is about but we fake it and we look good while we fake it. We had been snowed in for weeks. We had all lived for most of those weeks with layers and piles of clothing – much of it flannel and serviceable and some of it really tacky with mismatched patterns. Perhaps that was more to the point of why a spring tea … because it meant we could take off the flannel underwear, put on a pretty frock and let our pasty white legs feel a little sunshine.
I always tried to amp it up a little, insisting that we do tea pot juggling, invite the local witch’s coven to do the tea leaf reading, or even have the older ladies in their wheel chairs race around the room while we tried to rope and hog tie them. The Tea Committee always declined and decided to have someone read some lame poem, ask a couple of people sing, or have someone play the accordion.
I would stand there with my arms folded and tell everyone who came in the door to attend the tea, “Welcome to the Strawberry Tea, there aren’t any Strawberries and you might want to shield your eyes because some of these ladies are so pasty it can be blinding if the light hits their legs.” I was bitter. I freely admit it. I usually got asked to do dishes. But not like “get out of here and do dishes,” said with the anger and frustration they felt towards me. Never with the towel snapped at me, taking out an eye. They were cultured women after all, and more importantly, Canadians. It was always passively aggressive and said with a pasted pinked up smile. It was more like, “Aria, you know what, the thing you could do that would help us so much, because you are the only one who really knows how we like them done and you do such a terrific job, would be to do the dishes.” Then they would pat me with their hands. I always admired that they could actually do that and not loose control and end up punching me like I know they really wanted to.
My grandmother said the Spring Strawberry Tea was a “special time,” just for women, and that us girls were invited as kind of a rite of passage. I never figured out how pink serviettes. egg salad sandwiches cut up extra tiny, matrimonial squares and pink icing on cakes signalled the onset of womanhood but it is possible that it did and I was the only one who did not know the secret because people did not often share those kind of secrets with me. They probably would have volunteered me to be the poster for transgendered youth if we had that back then. Anything to get me out of the “women’s club.” I really envied the rites of passage you read about in National Geographic where you hunt and kill a wild boar and paint your face with blood, or you leap off a high platform with only vines tied to your ankles…
Let’s face it, you can blame politics all you want for not amping up the tourist interest in coming to the prairies but I would take a serious look at the Women’s Church Groups and their Spring Teas. I know it scared the heck out of me.
Tea for crying out loud.
“Here, you are now a woman … have some tea!”
“THIS is your identity! Pass her the cream Martha.”
I am screaming “whee” and holding tight to my crinolines as I type this … the excitement from just remembering it is almost too much.
“I know, this year honey, forget Disneyland, let’s go to the Canadian prairies and watch the Spring Tea ceremonies!” There is a reason no Hallmark commercial ever played this one during any sporting event.
Most of those girls I attended with are still on the prairies. They were probably given the book with the step by step explanation of how pink tea was the gateway to womanhood. They married their brothers and took over the home farm and are in charge of spring teas for some kind of fruit not available for the actual tea. I think Canadians thrive on disappointment. The only fruits we grow on the prairies are rhubarb and Saskatoon Berries. We exported some of those berries once but the EU thought they were genetically engineered and refused them entry. The US could not pronounce Saskatoon and wanted to rename them. What hope do we have when no-one wants us? So we say “Strawberry” and eat “Saskatoons.” Most of us just drank our tea and were confused.
Mind control in action. All the while the prairie winds blow and the sound of women singing “Strawberry Fields Forever” accompanied by an accordion is carried away into the wheat fields and the forests and the deer and the antelope play.