Planning for the St. Margaret's Episcopal Church Ladies Guild Fall Tea
“Brenda, why don’t you sit down and have some tea sandwiches while you’re here?”
“No thanks, Mary Lou. I have such a tiny little appetite, and if I eat those, I won’t be hungry when Cliff takes me to dinner tonight.”
“Come on,” she says, pushing the plate of tea sandwiches and a small glass bowl of cheese spread toward me. “Just one so I won’t feel bad.”
“All right. I’ll take just one,” I say. Mary Lou is known for her pimiento cheese, and the way she slices her sandwiches ribbon-style is just precious, which is one reason I asked her to join the Tea Society where I’m the president.
But I’m not here to eat. I’m here to tell her about the St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church Ladies Guild Fall Tea.
“I still don’t understand what the Methodists did that made you mad at their Mother’s Day Tea,” Mary Lou says.
She’s one of my dearest friends, but Lord, that woman can frustrate me. I’m so frazzled, I reach for a second pimiento cheese tea sandwich.
“They didn’t make me mad,” I say, taking a bite of sandwich just so she can see how completely fine I am with everything. “I just realized they were looking for a newcomer to head up their refreshment committee, and you and I both know I’m way overqualified for that.”
“Tell me again what happened at the tea?”
I sigh. “I did practically everything for that tea, including all the sandwiches, and most of those women didn’t lift a finger to help. But you know me, I don’t ever say anything. Now Kathy Brown helped, bless her heart, but that woman is a saint. I still can’t believe she got there at six a.m. just so we’d all have hot scones at teatime.”
Mary Lou has supposedly had lunch already, but she opens a big bag of Fritos while I eat one more pimiento cheese tea sandwich. I thought she had signed up for Weight Watchers, but those classes don’t appear to be doing her any good.
Mary Lou still doesn’t seem to understand the seriousness of what happened at the Mother’s Day Tea.
“So the tea went fine?” she asks. Mary Lou was supposed to come but had some kind of family emergency that day. I never did hear any more about that.
“Yes, but after the tea, the pastor’s wife didn’t even stay and help clean up,” I say.
“Pastors' wives aren’t janitors, Brenda. Why on earth should she clean up?”
I stick out my tongue at Mary Lou, who is being so ornery today.
“Go on with your story,” she says. “So what else made you mad at the Methodists?”
“Nothing made me mad, it just hurt my feelings.”
“What hurt your feelings, then?”
“When it was time to leave, most of the women told me what a good job I’d done, but the leader of their women’s ministry just asked me if I wanted to go on the mission trip to Costa Rica next spring. Can you believe that?”
“What? You don’t like missions?”
I roll my eyes and reach for a fork so I can eat that pimiento cheese spread.
“Of course I do, but she didn’t even thank me for anything. Don’t you think she should have? I couldn’t believe it. So when Erica Gillingham at St. Margaret’s asked if I would be one of the lifestyle experts at their fall tea—”
“Lifestyle expert?” roars Mary Lou, nearly choking on a Frito. “When did you become a ‘lifestyle expert’?”
Mary Lou is going to have to start keeping up with the movers and shakers in this town if she plans on us remaining friends. “You know how often I’m asked to speak about my role as president of the Tea Society. Don’t you think that qualifies?”
“I guess,” Mary Lou says, taking a swig of her sweet tea. “Sounds like you’ll enjoy it.” Mary Lou drinks out of plastic glasses, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
“Anyway,” I say, “the point is that the Episcopal ladies want me on the program, I don’t have to prepare food, and”—I pause to give Mary Lou the full effect—“I even get an honorarium. These ladies know how to treat a professional.”
“Uh-huh,” Mary Lou says, suddenly fishing around in the bottom of the Fritos bag.
“So how are things with the Baptists?” I ask, just to change the subject. I don’t want Mary Lou to think I’m too good to keep up with my old church.
“Fine,” she says. “The fall Bible studies are gearing up, and Starla Mooneyham’s going to lead a study of the book of Esther.”
“Starla is going to teach? That’s certainly different,” I say. What I’m thinking is, I can’t believe Starla Mooneyham is still head of the ladies ministry there. And I still can’t believe she turned down my Waldorf Chicken Salad for the spring tea.
“You’re not still mad at her for not choosing your chicken salad sandwiches for the spring tea, are you?”
“That was actually Waldorf Chicken Salad on Mini Croissants, but no, I was not then and am not now mad about it.”
“Okeydokey,” says Mary Lou, folding up her Fritos bag. “So when’s this shindig at St. Margaret’s?”
“September fifth. And I’ve been asked to display some of my teawares and need you to help me set everything up. Will you?”
“You know I will. That’s all this visit was about?”
Mary Lou shrugs, and I tell her I need to get going.
Slipping my purse over my shoulder, I say, “Trust me, Mary Lou. These Episcopal ladies are going to have the nicest tea this town has ever seen.”
“Can’t wait,” Mary Lou says, but she’s rummaging through her cabinets and soon pulls out a box of Little Debbie Swiss Rolls.
“Bye, Mary Lou.”
I can’t wait for September. Besides, it’s so nice to have finally found a church home.