I actually attended a garden tea party yesterday. Devised by my gardening neighbor pal and her daughter in law who lives across the street, their original idea was to entice a new neighbor who’d expressed an interest in the possibility of creating a small garden. This is a shy and possibly introverted woman (I’ve yet to see her) and my neighbor thought it would be nice for her to meet a few gardeners in the neighborhood and tour each other’s yards. As a confirmed introvert, I knew that this was probably not a great idea and sure enough, the new neighbor demurred and sent her apologies two days before the event. I was now stuck, but at least managed to have legit reasons to come late.
By way of explanation: not only am I an introvert, I have some curmudgeonly ways. I’m friendly, but small talk doesn’t come easily nor is it a pastime in which I care to engage. I’m also not your typical suburban housewife and am pretty adverse to a large number of things that the supposedly “typical American” wants or likes. We’ve also been in a heat & humidity wave that’s left everybody miserable and angry and drenched in sweat before you can towel off after your multiple daily showers. Topping it all off, I’m also a melanin rich woman of colour with a Latino last name. Eleven years on Long Island have exposed me to some of the worst racism and class biases I’ve experienced in my six decades on the planet, including 16 years in the South, so excursions into new areas or among people I don’t know here are entered into with caution. I knew that everyone else invited would be white and that our hostess would not have considered the possibility that they might be less welcoming than she. I always consider such things, but having agreed that they could tour my new, very incomplete garden and meet my new chickens (the most exciting event on the block this week) I forced myself to show up. And yes, it was awkward. What saved it was the attendance of one of the happiest, friendliest, and decidedly cutest little two year olds I’ve met. We bonded and her escapades provided a mutual focus, distraction and source of amusement.
After the ladies and little “Rose” enjoyed tea, lemonaid, and a fluffy lemon cake, we toured each others’ gardens. We started with the hosts, who have created lovely spaces, one with a long double lot that allows for a woodsy feel, then mine, the youngest & least complete. We ended with this 30+ year old beauty, a cottage gardener’s dream. It has “secret” paths, lovely enclaves to sit, fountains, mini waterfalls, and a hidden space where one can sit behind a tall, graceful wall of bushes without being seen.
The English born owner- a sweetly ancient, retired teacher who drives like a bat out of hell- leaves the gate unlocked so that neighbors can enjoy its peace and beauty when she’s not at home. It was a special and inspiring surprise I view as a kind of karmic reward for being sociable. It was worth the trip. 💚