Spring sunshine spread its comfort over me like a cozy throw as I sat relaxing and reading on the porch swing. In the story I was perusing, an enchanting tea party was in full sway, and the depiction of a table laden with tasty comestibles made my mouth water and my stomach rumble. A sudden longing for a tea party of my own possessed me, and the book slipped from my hand as I closed my eyes to better envision the desired affair.
My mind filled with the pressing questions such an event occasioned: What would be on the menu? Would it be an indoor or outdoor tea? What would be my decorating theme? The most crucial issue, though, was who would compose the guest list. Friends from church, coworkers, neighbors, family members…all smiled engagingly as they paraded through my thoughts like fashion models before a judge.
Then… inspiration struck! I would invite my best friends from childhood and youth—those whose influence had been so instrumental in shaping who I am now. With them, I had laughed, cried, and schemed. I had shared their dreams, discouragements, triumphs, and frustrations. Each one was a caring, creative, intelligent person of profound depth, who left a great impression on my character and values. None was perfect, but all were truehearted.
I pictured in my imagination their arrivals at the party…
Sweet and sunny Polly appeared a little early, carrying a pot of glowing pansies that she handed me as she headed for the kitchen to help with whatever luncheon preparations might be left.
Rose rang the doorbell next, and we embraced warmly. She was wealthier than any of the rest of us, but wasn’t a bit snobbish or ostentatious. She passed me a book to read about simplifying our lives, as she had a strong social consciousness and was generous in giving time and money to causes that served the oppressed and needy.
Tall, stylish Anne, my very best friend, arrived a few minutes later. No matter how long we’d been apart, there was instant camaraderie when we got together again. We’d always had a lot in common, and I’d enjoyed many hours with her. We’d both gotten excellent grades in school and had become elementary teachers. Favorite pastimes we shared were reading, writing stories, acting out dramas, and being outdoors in all kinds of weather.
Serious-minded Elnora knocked next, with some colorful drawings peeking out of a portfolio. She’d survived a difficult childhood, but instead of it leaving her with a bitter attitude, she gained a strong, independent spirit. Elnora had always been the real nature lover among and knew more about natural science than anyone I’d ever met.
Jo made her entrance a little late and out of breath. She was the most outspoken of my friends but was honest and good-hearted. I wasn’t quite as close to her as to some of the others, but she was stimulating to be around, and I admired her immensely. Her dramatic personality fitted her well for the life of a writer and for her involvement in amateur theater productions.
I could imagine our tea table conversation…
Jo would display keen insight as she discussed politics and world events with animated enthusiasm, while managing to simultaneously knock her cake plate in her lap and spill half her tea. Polly would jump up to help clean up the mess and then talk with quiet contentment about her husband and home life. Elnora would share with us about her nature sketches that were to be included in an elementary-level science magazine, as we all heartily congratulated her. Rose would discourse passionately about the needs of single moms, the unemployed, and the disabled whom she served each week at a shelter in her city. Anne would set us all to laughing with a hysterical story about the antics of her five children. I would just smile and listen, pleased and honored to be among such talented, purposeful women.
My eyes blinked in the sunlight as I opened them again. Yes, these were the ladies I’d like to include at my tea, but it would all have to take place in my mind, as they were friends of literature and fiction—Anne of Green Gables, “Little Women’s” Jo, Rose Campbell of L.M. Alcott’s “Rose in Bloom,” Elnora in “Girl of the Limberlost,” and Polly from Alcott’s “An Old-fashioned Girl.”
They may be “pen and paper” phantoms, but their impact on my life was powerful and real.
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