A few years ago, when I was first searching for the right kind of special event for readers of my Women’s Fiction novels, I chose Afternoon Tea as the perfect thing. “Tea” seemed to signify both elegance and comfort, a chance to connect with others while taking a break from hectic schedules. And though men sometimes attend, the event itself has a feminine quality, with great attention to detail and style.
The first person I approached with this idea was my mother. A brilliant hostess, she grasped the concept instantly and offered her own home for a series of three events that I named Hospitali-Teas. And I added one more component that’s so important to me, my readers, and all my women friends: donations to worthy causes. So at each tea, I donate a percentage of sales to a non-profit dear to my heart or close to the event, or both. Thus were born the Possibili-Teas, Generosi-Teas, Creativi-Teas, and the list continues. This year I launched the Milford-Haven Socie-Tea. Next February, I’ll be doing the first “Uni-Tea” with the wonderful Unity Shoppe non-profit in Santa Barbara. So when it comes to Tea, I’m on a roll . . . or should I say, a scone.
On tour for my brand new novel these days, I was heading to Phoenix where I’d come to the attention of Jeffrey Hattrick “The Tea Guy”—the director of High Tea at the Ritz-Carlton, who has created not only the position of Tea Sommelier, but also Jeffreys Tea, a company offering his own unique tea blends, one for each season. For the Ritz-Carlton, he designed a tea menu where each delectable, be it savory or sweet, is actually infused with tea.
The moment my guests and I sank into the plush seats in the Tea Lobby, the sense of urgency and schedules and to-do lists began to evaporate like a wisp of steam escaping from the porcelain teacups that were soon set before us on knee-high marble tables. Signing books between sips, I sat back to enjoy the surroundings, and was then delighted at being serenaded by Jeffrey and his pianist—another special part of tea at the Ritz-Carlton.
After my first cup of Earl Gray, my eye was drawn to the mirror-image seating area across from the one where I sat with Dianemarie and Doug Collins. Noticing a copy of my book sat on their table, I walked toward them and asked if I might bother them for a moment. “Oh, you’re not bothering us at all!” An elegant woman about my mother’s age spoke in a lilting South African cadence. Myrna was visiting her beautiful daughter Ava, who lives in Scottsdale. Ava had decided to create a tradition: taking her mother out to tea on a regular basis. I couldn’t help but think of my own mother, and how much she’d love that idea.
Why do we need to create occasions just to be able to have a conversation with someone as important to us as a mother or a daughter? Because otherwise, life with its urgencies and schedules and to-do lists sweeps us along. Before we know it, the conversations we always thought we’d get around to—the big ones where the daughter asks why did you marry dad? Was it hard to give up your career? Did you always want to have children? Or the small ones like should I keep dying my hair? Should I renew my Costo membership? Can I cook the turkey this year?—those conversations just never happen. Snatches of them do, before the cell phone cuts out or the doorbell rings. But the sitting together, the deep breaths, the warming sips—these don’t happen unless we create the space in which they can.
There’s one more thread to this tea story. Ava had tried to schedule tea for herself and her mom elsewhere, and it hadn’t worked out. She’d also heard about an author (yours truly) whose new book What the Heart Knows sounded like something she wanted to give her mother as a birthday gift. Stopping by the local Barnes & Noble, she’d been told the book was due to arrive in a couple of days. Now Ava had two disappointments: no tea, and no book. But though her head told her things weren’t working, since it was her mother’s birthday, her heart wouldn’t let her give up, so she tried again. Turned out, tea was being served at the Ritz-Carlton, so she made her reservation. Imagine Ava’s utter amazement at what she saw as she and her mother were seated in the Tea Lobby. Not only was the book she’d been looking for on display; the author was now sitting at their table! By listening to her heart, she was led right to her heart’s desire. That’s what I call a Serendipi-Tea.
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