As we ease into the month of May, the stores are suddenly cleared of Easter candies and décor, immediately replaced with gifts and cards for graduations and Mother’s Day. One year the void of not having my Mom for Mother’s Day struck me. The memories of planning something special to do with her for the holiday that I hoped she would enjoy was sorely felt.
Over the past several years I understood that she preferred spending time with me more than receiving some elaborate gift. Creating memories and quality time together grew more meaningful and cherished, while the memory of gifts received from year to year were easily forgotten. I tried to be original and put a lot of thought into the sharing of time. We had brunch at Commander’s Palace, high tea at the Windsor Court Hotel; attended the Broadway musical Beauty & the Beast, attended the Art in Bloom Exhibit at our museum and had lunch at an uptown café. I tried to introduce her to things she’d never done, while also showing her the way into my world – and the things I loved. She was always so excited at each new adventure.
Mom had a number of brooches, beautifully adorned with various colored rhinestones or pearls and a different design for nearly every occasion or holiday. When Madeline Albright’s exhibit of pins (received while she served as Secretary of State) came to the New Orleans Museum of Art, we and one each of our friends got together to see the exhibit and have lunch at Ralph’s on the Park. Of all my efforts, the one that interested Mom the most however was high tea. The sight of a little tea shop just made her squirm with joy.
Decades ago, I attended a family bridal shower and noticed a large round table with a silver coffee urn and a variety of china cups and saucers each with a different pattern. When I asked why they were all different I was surprised to learn that it was the hostess’s teacup collection, something I had not considered or seen before. I’d never been a fan of collectibles. They just sit on a shelf and collect dust and create clutter. But this collection sparked my interest. This was a collection that was not only beautiful to look at, but also “useful”, and so my search began.
Although the collection at the bridal shower was lovely, I had chosen to collect tea cups with specific criteria. While they may all be different, I wanted a common thread or cohesiveness between them. As a result all of the cups in my collection are trimmed in gold and have either pink or red roses in the pattern. Shortly after my third or fourth cup, my mother followed suit and began to collect similar cups. She also bought some that are part of my collection as gifts during her travels to California and Germany.
In the final months of my mother’s life, I hosted a tea for her and her friends. It turned out to be the best idea, giving her this opportunity to share time with her friends while doing something she loved, and of course I’d made her proud. It was the last time they saw her well and I was grateful that they had this joyful time together. Mom passed away just two months later.
The following year while going through some of her things, I was overwhelmed by all of her cups. Many were the same as my own and others didn’t fit into my collection. I decided I would take those that I wanted and individually wrap the others in gift boxes. The Spring following Mom’s passing, I hosted another afternoon tea in memory of my Mom for the same group ladies, along with a few of my helpful friends, and presented each of Mom’s friends with one of her boxed cups. They were surprised and touched… some saying later that they have a cup of tea in the afternoon in memory of Mom with their cup.
A year later, as Mother’s Day approached, I realized how odd it felt not to have my Mom here for Mother’s Day. The more I thought about it, I realized that several of my friends had also loss their mothers. Why not continue on with what had unknowingly formed a tradition? Thus, is the genesis of my Mothers Tea.
I invited those whose mothers had passed and asked each to bring a small framed photo of their mother. The weekend before Mother’s Day we gathered for high tea at my dining room table and shared memories of our mothers, with their images perched beside us.
I learned that they, like myself, felt the loss each year, but didn’t know what (other than bringing flowers to the graveyard-some no longer living where their mother was buried) to do with the holiday. Of course, we all have our own children and grandchildren to celebrate our own “Mother’s Day” with, but our gathering to remember our mothers has made the holiday something to look forward to, rather than feel awkward about. And so a tradition was formed in 2017 with a small group that grew further in 2018.
I gave everyone a small journal with the label “Remembering Mom” on the front to jot down memories as they occurred throughout the year to share with everyone. The 2nd year I gave everyone a small rhinestone frame (found at T. J. Maxx or Marshalls) prior to the scheduled tea date. This controlled the scale of frames on the table and crowned our mothers’ images with the sparkle they deserved.
For my 2018 tea, I used the Royal Wedding and Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee events as my theme. Harney & Sons teas designed with these occasions in mind and traditional British cream scones were the first items decided. Among the tea sandwiches were the Coronation chicken salad https://www.teatimemagazine.com/coronation-chicken-salad-sandwiches-recipe/ and a favorite of Queen Elizabeth’s and Prince William’s, chocolate biscuit cake that is thinly sliced after it sets. https://www.teatimemagazine.com/chocolate-biscuit-cake-recipttps://www.teatimemagazine.com/chocolate-biscuit-cake-recipe/
We started our gathering with Kirsch Royals (Cassis or Chambord and Champagne with fresh raspberries for garnish) toasting each other “Happy Mother’s Day”, followed by a short prayer for our mothers and then, to bring our hearts, minds and memories of our mothers to the surface, I projected Ed Sheeran’s music video of “Supermarket Flowers” (that he actually wrote for his grandmother) on my smart television screen. https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-pty-pty_email&hsimp=yhs-pty_email&hspart=pty&p=ed+sheeran+supermarket+flowers+official+video#id=2&vid=41bf1096659f8c1fcec1c943beecbb45&action=view
A little teary eyed, we gathered around my dining room table for afternoon tea and took turns remembering something about each of our Moms. One of my friends recalled a memory of pulling the seeds from dried marigolds as a child that her mother planted every year, while planting marigolds as a deterrent for bugs in her own vegetable garden. She said as a child she didn’t appreciate the reason why her mother planted the marigolds year after year or saved their precious seeds. She found herself forming a new appreciation of the memory as she planted her own marigolds. As she told her story, I suddenly remembered that my Mom also planted marigolds.
Another friend recalled memories of wonderful travel adventures on trains, cruises and in exotic places like South Africa, crediting her Mom for her love of travel. Several of us remember our mothers at sewing machines making our clothes, doll or Barbie clothes and the little things they did to keep us busy. One friend recalled memories of her Mom cutting flowers from her garden and wrapping the stems in wet paper towels for her and her sister to bring to their teacher (others of us remember our Moms doing the same.) Memories of others brought back remembrances of our own.
Not all memories were perfectly lovely. We all learned from talking that everyone has moments of strain, judgement, control and disagreement with their mothers just as we do in any relationship. Learning that this is common between most mother and daughters helped some of my friends be more forgiving of those times. As I told one friend, I try to think of how I would like my daughter to remember me, knowing she will lovingly find fault in my parenting too. None of us will be remembered as perfect. Everyone does the best they know how to at the time.
The first year I served this Korbel Sweet Rose’ that everyone really enjoyed. On the right a tray of tea sandwiches, cream cheese and strawberry, cucumber with herbed goat cheese and egg salad profiteroles
After our deep conversations, I played part of a meditation from the Deepak Chopra & Oprah Meditation series, Day 20 “Hope Offers Forgiveness”. To paraphrase -someone once said forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different. It’s being able to let go and not being held hostage for another minute by the past. Forgiveness is to accept and release that things could not have been any different and what happened, happened. Holding on to any bitterness is actually poisoning you. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself, not the person who in any way hurt or wronged you. Forgiveness releases us so that whatever we feel hurt us in the past, no longer has power in our future.
We agreed that in the end, everything happened exactly the way it was supposed to. We all turned into lovely women, great friends and good mothers because of what we learned from our mothers. Little did I know that my spark of inspiration decades ago at a bridal shower would one day lead to an annual celebration where my own teacup collection would be used to honor and celebrate our Mothers in a whole new way. What better way to honor our Mom’s than to remember and honor the life they gave us?
At the end of the celebration, I placed everyone’s name in a teapot. We pulled a name from the teapot- and I announced that this year’s theme for the tea, would represent that person’s mother. The friend’s mother that we will be honoring this year was a seamstress and I’m having fun putting together a tea sewn together where we can share more precious memories of our mothers this year. Stay tuned for the ideas and planning for our Seamstress themed Mother’s Tea.
If your Mother is no longer with you and you’re struggling to find a way to keep her memory alive, remember what she loved and form your own group of friends who are probably experiencing the same void that you are. I can only hope that our Mothers feel our love and are smiling down on us for not having forgotten them.