25 April 2007


The Fourth Day of Four

Four o'clock is perhaps my favorite time of day. I like the morning, too, the sun coming in the kitchen while I get my pot of tea going, but 4:00 seems special. Particularly in winter, the quality of light around 4 pm is wonderfully purply blue, and it seems rich with possibility. 4:00 is just about time to be thinking about getting dinner, but not quite. 4:00 is after the fullness of the day, so it holds memories. 4:00 is early enough that there is still time to do one more thing. 4:00 is relaxed, holding the past, leaving time for the future.

This is a somewhat idealized view of 4:00, to be sure. At 4:00 these days, I'm likely to be stopping at the grocery after picking up Curious Girl from school, or checking my e-mail to see if something needs attention at work before I start pulling groceries out for our increasingly early dinners. But the notion of 4:00 appeals to me. 4:00 is teatime, time to pull out the china and have scone or cookie along with some Earl Grey or Darjeeling. My fancypants university had a wonderful tea every afternoon at our departmental library. Every afternoon, studying paused. A dime bought a cup of tea (and still does!), a nickel bought a cookie. Tea time brough a quiet buzz to the library, and groups would form around comfy chairs and couches, and then gradually, regular work would resume. I love tea time, that elegant pause in a day.

When I lived in Canada, the newspapers would always report who poured tea at showers or receptions. It's an honor to be asked to pour tea at a reception or shower, and many of the people I knew had tea carts in their dining room and tea sets on their sideboards. I loved having my own tea set out: just the sight of it made me smile, anticipating a nice slow afternoon when it might get used again. Curious Girl has her very own china tea cup, a gift from friends who visited Delft. She uses it on mornings when she wants to have tea (although hers is mostly warm milk). It's elegant, and it's fun. Lately she's taken to drinking with her pinky extended. "Like Snow White, in the movie, Mama. Do you remember that part?" (uh, no.) "Like this, see? It's tricky." Tricky, yes, but also fun.

So we drink tea, and talk, having a little bit of a 4:00 feeling at breakfast. Another part of that 4:00 feeling comes from tea things and the connections they hold. My tea pot is a gift from Politica, and another one I have was my grandmother's. I have china tea cups from a College Friend (who shared many an afternoon tea with me), and most of our mugs have a story to go with them--two I bought in England without Politica knowing, several we picked out at art fairs. When I use them, I remember how we got them, and that's good. (When I make my adagio tea, I remember Julie who introduced me to the company, and that's good, too; let me know if you'd like a gift certificate for the site and I'll send you one--they do a good job using social networks to promote them, and the tea is good.)

4:00, tea and scones, a time to sit, connect, enjoy the changing light. Even thought I don't have teatime everyt day anymore, just thinking about it brings it closer. It's a gift of four: time and possibility.


Phantom Scribbler said...

I'm loving this series! I do actually have a traditional glass tea cart -- it was my grandma's, and I've lately been feeling rather tetchy about how it's not the most efficient use of our minimal space. Thank you for giving me a reason to appreciate it again.

JM said...

yay 4:00!

jo(e) said...

I too love the light at about 4 pm on a winter day.

susan said...

Phantom,do you have a tea set on the tea cart? Then you can have tea parties, which are endlessly amusing around here (especially now that Curious Girl is old enough to put real water in her little tea pots--she now has two tea sets, and we break them out regularly). I know BB is not supposed to have water, but she could pour cream!

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
S. said...

Oh, the difference between 4:00 before parenting and 4:00 after--before, when I was teaching, 4:00 meant home for the day. Now, 4:00 is the moment at which Z. must be picked up from day care or we are fined (no joke).

Politica said...

See, this is one of the many differences between Susan and me. My sense of 4:00 is more like "oh crap, the day is almost over and I haven't gotten anything done." Just one of many reasons why I love her. That, and that fact that I didn't know that 4:00 was one of her favorite times of the day until just now.

liz said...

Tea time! I LOVE tea time!

Tea and scones and clotted cream and tiny little thin cut sandwiches and itty bitty cakes or just shortbread cookies.