Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Tea Party Report - Part 3: The Floods - or - A Change in Plans

On the eighth year of this annual tea party we encountered our first BIG issue. (Well, the biggest issue we'd had so far anyway - the previous year, there was a pretty big problem with receiving the wrong tea...Vanilla Green instead of Vanilla Chai. And by the time we'd realized it, there was not enough time to have the company send the right one. So, there was lots of scurrying around to purchase loose black tea to mix with the green - and finding candied ginger and other spices from Ada's in Bethel Springs - and several of us reenacted the scene from "Macbeth" as we stirred a humongous bowl full of tea and spices. "Double, double, toil and trouble..." We all knew it was a memory in the making. And the custom-blended tea was a hit. We sold out!)

Yes, every year there's something or another that throws a kink in the plans...but this year's problem was even bigger. It involved something we had no control over...The Weather.

Now, I absolutely love living in Tennessee. Except for during tornado season. Bleah. Thumbs down!

We knew there were storms on the horizon for Tea Party Weekend and, as a committee, we were telling everyone we knew to pray for sunshine. And I prayed for sunshine continuously myself. Every once in awhile, though, I'd remember that scripture in Romans (8:28 to be exact): "For we know that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." So, several times I prayed with that specifically in mind, asking for a good result - even if it still did storm.

Here's what we were afraid of: instead of holding the Victorian Tea Party at the lovely Hardeman House, as is the perfect place for it...if it stormed too badly, we would have to move the whole event across to the street to the Henderson church of Christ building. The Activity Center, to be more precise, which has plenty of room but which = GYM. And which wouldn't have the same ambience. AND there's the whole fact that we'd have to MOVE everything. At the last minute. It wasn't a pleasant thought. Plus, if it were stormy, would our guests still come?? Would it be a whole lot of headache (and backaches - and heartaches for that matter) for nothing? We were anxious and worried, but tried not to be. All of us had spent hours upon HOURS readying every last detail for the day. I liken it to planning a huge wedding and reception. Seriously. It's literally that many details.

On Saturday morning, everything was ready to be set up, but we didn't know where to set it up. Debbie and I were back and forth on the phone, watching the weather and looking outside at the stormy skies. I was at the home ec. building on FHU's campus with several other ladies who were helping make the last-minute frostings for two of our food items...Jeremy had already been calling from work to tell us to be careful and get in a safe place because the sirens kept going off (he, perhaps, should have been a meteorologist - he checks all the real radar stuff, not just weather.com). Debbie and some volunteers were already at the Hardeman House, where we'd gone ahead and rented the big white tents and tables and chairs in hopes that the storm would pass up by, as it sometimes does. But finally we realized that it wasn't going to pass us by. So, even though we'd had the presence of mind to rent the sides to the tents, too (Debbie's good idea) in case of regular (not crazy) rain, we had to finally say, "Let's move it." It stung a little to know we were going to have to eat the costs of the tent this year, but it was also a relief. We knew what we had to do and we had to get started fast. And immediately.

Now, pay attention. Here's where things started falling into place. We got over to the church building and we had plenty of extra helpers because, get this, lots of able-bodied people were waiting in the church basement...because of said storms. Bonus! So we had volunteers that hadn't even signed up. And we didn't have to move the tables and chairs over...because there were plenty already there. Double bonus.

Also, we were dreading the whole lack of ambience because who wants to have a tea party in a gym? Not this girl. But my mother, who always has good ideas regarding ambience, suggested setting up the tea tables in the handsome Commons area, which is where many baby and bridal showers are now held. Because that's where we'd had our rehearsal dinner for our wedding. It was perfect - check!

We set up the little girls' dress-up venue in a large classroom right off of the Commons.

And we set up the rest of the venues in the Fellowship Hall on the other side of the Commons. The kitchen was right there and everything...and several long-time tea party kitchen workers noted that they had more room to spread out this year. Good to know.

As our first guests (yea, guests!) arrived, the electricity went out. Seriously. It was like clockwork. But since the tea tables were in the Commons area, each end of the room was flanked in ceiling-to-floor windows, so it let in any available light. Which admittedly wasn't an incredible amount because it was pretty dark outside, but it was something. If we'd only known, we'd have had some candles ready, but now we know if we ever have a "next time." =) The ladies who ate first "ate by Exit light" instead.

Enough hot tea had just been brewed to last for quite awhile, so we celebrated each time more ladies arrived and laughed about this year's tea party conditions, one of which later told us that it helped transport us back to Victorian times. =) Thanks for the smile, Susan. We still served about 125 guests, which was truly amazing to me. It was about half of the guests we'd had last year at 250, which was our largest group yet, but it was perfect. Yes, we would have been happy with even more, but we were so relieved that half of the people still came. Sweet Mrs. Jean Marilyn said, "Only us silly ladies would be out in this!" There were some people who still would have come if they only could have, but areas of Tennessee had some serious flooding that weekend and there were sinkholes and closed roads and all that. It's not been pretty.

Almost halfway through the tea party, I caught wind of an impending problem...we'd almost run out of hot tea. And unless the electricity came back on, we had no way to heat more water. Someone notified Dr. Shull, an FHU teacher who also leads a Boy Scout troup, and he came up, in his yellow rain jacket and toting his camp stove, to save the day. Of course, about the time he got it started up...the electricity came back on. Of course. But we appreciated the gesture so much, nevertheless!

So we did get to finish up the tea party being able to see exactly what we were eating, and the little girls were able to see much better to color their butterfly wands and design their paperdolls. We got so very many nice compliments about the event and I was grateful for each one who helped and who attended. It really did all "work together for good." We might not often see such immediate results of things working together like that. Often we find out months (or even years) down the road that things really did work out the way they should have.

I continue to be thankful for the opportunity to watch the good things unfold that very day. Perhaps the best thing about it is that now we know how to do it and when and where things should be set up...you know, the answers to all of those important questions. And that takes away our fear of the unknown. Which gives me peace of mind. And that's such a relief to me, because I'm supposed to be the chair of next year's tea party because Debbie will be...in Europe for the semester! Yikes! (I'm not sure I can allow that to happen, but she tells me it's a done deal.)

Here's to hoping that next year's tea party is as wonderful as this year's turned out to be, if the Good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise. ;)

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