The Baptists and Christmas Tea
“I love the little tags on these tea bags,” said Mary Lou. “But I thought you only drank loose-leaf tea. What gives?”
“Lots of ladies in the Tea Society give me Christmas tea bags each year, and I’m happy to have them. In fact, I’m saving some of them for when I help Starla Mooneyham at our Women’s Ministry Christmas Tea next Saturday.”
Mary Lou suddenly snorted some tea. She made a mess when she tried to clean it up, thoroughly staining one of my nice red napkins I had so carefully folded to look like Christmas roses. Not that I minded. I always said it was my pleasure to have friends enjoy my nice things.
“You, Brenda Johnson, are helping the Starla Mooneyham, head of the Women’s Ministry, with the Christmas Tea?” Mary Lou sputtered. “Last I checked, you had forsaken the Baptist church and were becoming an Episcopalian after speaking at their big fall tea.”
I always tried to keep my opinions to myself, but I was about to tell Mary Lou that she really needed to keep up if she wanted to know what was going on in town. “Now I know I told you what happened at that tea.”
“The food was bad?”
“No, it wasn’t bad at all,” I said. “They had some wonderful tea sandwiches, including my Waldorf Chicken Salad on Mini Croissants—the one they featured in Southern Lady magazine—and a cute little sandwich with fancy cucumber slices on top. Their scones were even served with real clotted cream someone had brought back from England.”
“Then refresh my memory. What was the problem?” Mary Lou said.
“They advertised my program topic as … high tea,” I said.
Mary Lou just shook her head and reached for some of the chocolate truffles left over from the afternoon’s tea.
“So how did you hook up with Starla Mooneyham?”
“It was the oddest thing,” I said. “You probably don’t remember this, but earlier this year, Starla had turned up her nose at my chicken salad sandwiches—”
“Oh, I do remember,” interrupted Mary Lou. “That’s why you got mad and left the church to begin with.”
“I did not get mad,” I said, but Mary Lou was making me mad by not letting me finish. “Anyway, right after the Episcopal ladies’ tea, Starla called me one day in a panic. She said the secretary of the Women’s Ministry had accidentally ordered two thousand oversized plastic plates for the Christmas Tea. Starla said all the finger sandwiches looked puny on such a large plate, so she thought my Waldorf Chicken Salad on Mini Croissants would look pretty and take up more room.”
Mary Lou polished off another truffle and wiped chocolate off her fingers with my pretty red napkin. I reminded myself that it was my joy to share my nice things with others.
“Hey, is that a new teacup?” she said. She pointed at my English teacup with holly berries on it. I told her it was an early Christmas gift from Starla, who was thanking me for helping rescue the Christmas Tea.
Mary Lou just nodded.
Something about Mary Lou’s attitude had shifted, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. She said she was glad I was “returning to the fold,” but she didn’t seem as happy as I expected that I was going back to being a Baptist.
Mary Lou helped me wash and put away all the china, and she gathered up the napkins that had been folded into roses earlier in the day, including the one she had smeared the chocolate all over, not that I really minded.
I told Mary Lou I wanted her to sit at the table with Starla and me at the Christmas Tea next Saturday. She said she would, but she didn’t seem too excited about it.
“So now you and Starla are tight?” she said.
“Not really. Why?”
“First you’re helping her with the tea, then she’s bringing you a nice teacup for Christmas. I just wondered if she was going to be your new BFF of teatime, that’s all.”
That was when I realized it: Mary Lou was jealous. So I reached over and covered her hand with my own. “Starla Mooneyham’s a nice enough person, and I’m happy she finally came to her senses about using my recipe for the church tea, but she could never replace you as my best tea friend. Why, do you know, Starla asked me if I collected tea diffusers last week when the tea committee met.”
“Diffusers!” Mary Lou chortled. “She means infusers!”
“Yes,” I said. “And she originally wanted to advertise the Christmas Tea as ‘high tea’ until I explained things to her.”
“For heaven’s sake,” Mary Lou said, perking up.
Soon, we finished tidying up after the day’s tea. Mary Lou was headed out the door when she turned and said, “Will you and Cliff be home tomorrow evening before church? I’ll be out delivering my holiday jars of pimiento cheese spread, and I’d like to bring yours by if that’s okay.”
I told her we’d be home and would eagerly await the arrival of her famous pimiento cheese.
“I’m glad you’re back to being a Baptist,” Mary Lou said. “We’ve missed you. I can’t wait ’til you join the church again and make it official.”
“Oh, I never officially left,” I said. “I guess the Lord knew He was going to need me back with the Baptists.”
Mary Lou chuckled and hugged me goodbye. “Oh, Brenda,” she said. Sometimes, I almost felt that Mary Lou was just a little bit condescending to me for some strange reason.
But then again, I always kept my opinions about such things to myself. Especially at Christmas.