This weekend Rachel and I traveled five hours to continue an annual mother-daughter tradition, our twelfth in a row:  A Valentine Tea Party.  The brainchild and fantasy-come-true of my mother-in-law’s, “tea” has less to do with this than the “valentine” and “party” part.

Sarah gave birth to four boys.  Before the age of ultrasound, every time she was pregnant, she just KNEW that this time she’d have “sugar and spice and everything nice”……..but every time, instead, it was “hammers and nails and puppy dog tails”.  Her shopping gene longed for the day she could buy  hair bows and mary janes, smocked dresses and Easter bonnets, baby dolls and …. tea sets!

Outside of celebrating a friend’s daughter’s arrival, her “day” never came.

Then, I entered the picture.  Tad and I dated five years–sometimes off-again, mostly on-again–before deciding to marry, and by that point, Sarah and Tommy knew me very well.  They loved me as if I were their own, call me their “first-born daughter” and refer to me as their “daughter-in-love”.  Realizing fully not everyone has this kind of relationship with their in-laws, I am ever-mindful not to take it for granted…especially now, having lost both my own parents.

I was the Queen Bee until his next younger brother got married and de-throned me, and eventually, I’ve had to endure that process three times, slipping to a lower rung on the ladder each time.  I still wear a “crown”, it’s just not as shiny and new.

Well, ALL of our reigns came to a screeching HALT when the grands started coming.    And because Tad was the oldest…and got married first…it wasn’t that big of a stretch that we’d have the first grandchild.

Not JUST a grandchild, but a G R A N D D A U G H T E R.  Spun gold.  Pure delight.  Enchantment of their hearts.  She had them wrapped around her tiny perfect pinky the moment they laid eyes on her tiny perfect body. 

I remember the day Sarah came to me with a “proposition”. Through the years, there have been many; I learned a long time ago that whatever Sarah asked for, she usually got, because she’s a Steel Magnolia to the core and she understood you get a bushel more flies with honey than vinegar. No ominous “making an offer you can’t refuse” business, by the time she was done asking, her saccharine powers of persuasion had accomplished her goal.

In one breath, Sarah began and finished, “You know how Rachel loves her tea set and playing make believe…let’s have a Valentine Tea Party for Rachel…we can make it a mother-daughter thing…and the girls can dress up and eat all their favorite foods…and of course we’ll use the fine china and silver and it WILL BE SO MUCH FUN…and we’ll make it an annual tradition and when she’s 16 we’ll invite boys and it’ll be a “Sweet 16” party!”  Exhale.

All mothers go crazy when they have their first child, they lose more brain cells giving birth than a frat boy loses following a long weekend binge.  It’s a rule.  We collectively judge OTHER mothers BEFORE we give birth and say things like “I’ll never…” and “Can you believe what she…” but those are bitter words quickly eaten and we hope nobody remembers we said them in the first place. We BELIEVE our children are the smartest kids on the planet—I don’t know how many times I heard “My child is advanced…” or some derivative of same when I served as director for our Mom’s Day out at my old church. I’d just smile and think silent but hyper-judgmental and condescending thoughts because I was soooo past the delusions of mommydom.

With that in mind, in two blinks of an eye, I bought what Sarah was selling.  And so began our Valentine Tea Party tradition.  Of course, more details, pictures and commentary to follow;).

At least I’m not talkin’ rats!

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