My baby is not a baby any more. She’s 5 today, which seems damn near impossible. This morning she kept singing, “I’m 5! I’m 5! I’m 5!” And, she’s been “I can do it myself”-ing me more than usual. I’m “working” from home today, and I’m actually able to get more done than I imagined because of said independence, and a sweet older brother who is playing Legos and Pokemon and, hopefully, about to go outside with her. He leaves for 2 weeks of sleep away camp on Thursday, and she’s been telling him how much she loves him and will miss him, and I think he’s taking her so seriously, and his level of patience is amazing. I mean, she’s a sweetie, but 6 years is a big age gap.
Anyway, we celebrated her all weekend, and she told us–a lot–how much she loved everything. I’m telling you–I was one of those people who rolled her eyes at the whole american doll girl thing, and did an especially hard eye roll when a grandparent gave her one for her first Christmas (she was 6 months old. Ridic.), but the joy she had at watching that doll’s hair get done? Roll your eyes at our parenting on this one (I might even join you), but she was thrilled and said a million thank yous and it was worth it.
AND, because we did such a big deal thing for her on Saturday (the family drove to Chicago for the event), we had only a few friends over for, mostly, a glorified playdate and cake. Trudy had asked for a “watermelon” party, so there was pin the seed on the watermelon and watermelon bowling (seriously. check it out:)
But, I really loved that our 2 and 4 little buddies sat around the table, drinking tea and eating snacks and cake together. When I was little, tea parties with great grandparents, grandparents, parents was a thing. We, my sisters and I, loved it. Sometimes, we’d dress up in fancy clothes, sometimes not. Jess started doing them with our kids a while ago, and my parents are always down for a tea party whenever they visit. Yesterday, Jess and I were contemplating what to serve the tea in, because, really, what?
As I was pouring water over the (raspberry) tea, I kept grinning to myself. Jess and I joked that we’d kick any kid out who broke one of the cups (we wouldn’t) (they didn’t) (thank goodness), but I was remembering that I was tiny, too, when I first used these teacups. A few months before Jess and I got illegally married back in 2000, an old family friend gave us her china. As children, we sat next to Mrs. Stoutz in church, and, as we lived 33 miles (yep) from church, we’d often go to her house for lunch after. She served us peanut butter and jelly on the fancy plates, and she never seemed to worry, at least to my young self, that we would break anything. Mrs. Stoutz never had children of her own, and called my sisters and I her adopted grandchildren. As our grandparents lived on either coast (and we in the middle, in TX), nothing about her seemed like a secondary grandparent. We spent the night at her house without our folks, tried on the lipsticks in the fancy tubes in the bathroom, placing them carefully back on the mirrored trays where they lived, and sat outside smelling the magnolias that were all over her yard.
Her sister, Jane, came to visit often, and Jane’s daughter was the first out lesbian that I knew–or knew about. Mrs. Stoutz was too frail to come to our wedding, and Jane had long passed, but every time we use her china–not often, really–I think about those sweet lunches, those kind, feminist sisters, that niece who was a lesbian activist in the 80s of all times, and I feel proud and lucky that we are able to raise our kids in a time where definitions of family expand, where little girls can choose to play doll dress up if they want, knowing that they can also choose messy things and career things and math things and science things, and where growing up boys equally like the gentleness it takes to help his little sister and the idea of being on his own for 2 weeks at sleep away camp.
I know it is a little cheesy, a little idealistic, and that there is a long way to go in this world, but sometimes, the simplicity of passed down china tea cups can make one really grateful for one’s past, and so hopeful for one’s future.