Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tea quenches thirst and tears

I don't know who said that but it is fitting for today. The packers arrived Tuesday and will load our furniture tomorrow. So today I’m going to write about tea parties because that is a much nicer thought. And specifically I’m going to write a little bit about one of my favourite things in the world…the Chilterns American Women’s Club. We had a tea party a couple of weeks ago so that’s not as random as it sounds.

Five days after I arrived in England Debbie arrived at my front door. She had invited me to attend the September General Meeting of the CAWC and the best part was she was going to drive me there herself. At this point in time I was still a little anxious about driving to unfamiliar places and adjusting to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Some people (and by some people I mean my children) would say I’m not there yet.

The club meets in a nearby hall and from the moment I stepped into the meeting room I felt at home. I will add here that although the club is known as an American women’s club its membership is truly international. Anyone who has a child at the International School can join so it’s an amazing mix of about 200 women representing close to 50 nationalities and cultures. My first meeting happened to be their first meeting of the calendar year and it was a meet and greet type of event with some ice breakers thrown in for fun. I even won a prize for being the ‘most recently arrived’.

The club holds one meeting per month in addition to organizing about 20 activities each month that you can pick and choose from…everything from tennis to scrapbooking, hiking, outings, date nights, moms and tots, golf, antiquing….basically anything you’d like to do while in England plus the added bonus of friends to do it with. In addition they host several newcomers’ coffees each year that are filled with helpful tips on life in this country. As if that weren’t enough, they also raise money for the National Society for Epilepsy and another local charity each year. And the women in this club…some of the nicest people I’ve ever known. Perhaps it is because we’re all living away from home. Well, most of us anyway…we do have some British members, many who have lived in the US for a period of time and want to maintain their connection with American women. Some of them are where I am now…they’ve lived in a foreign country that feels like home and after repatriating back to their home country they feel like they belong in two places.

The first year of ex pat life definitely presents some challenges and it is a wonderful thing to have women to share it with....women who can answer questions, women who will tell you where to find things you need to make your house feel like home, women who understand that children need play dates and moms do too, women who understand the emotional roller coaster you stepped on the day your husband announced you were actually moving to England, women who invite you to coffee when you need a friend, women who go to Italy with you for your birthday just for fun, and most especially women who understand that leaving a country you have lived in and loved is not an easy thing. In fact it’s a very hard thing.

Every May our club hosts a tea party for its members. The hall where we meet is the opposite of fancy so its great fun to see it dressed up every May. Women volunteer to decorate a table and they provide the tablescape which of course includes a teapot. The club provides the treats… tea sandwiches, cakes, and my favourite, scones with clotted cream and jam. When we arrived here my children were quite put off by the word ‘clotted cream’. Me, not so much. I am actually never put off by anything containing the word cream so I was on board from day one. It’s really just an extra extra thick cream, almost butter but not quite.

Many of the tables are put together by our various activity groups. Our Book Bunch always has a fantastic table and a lot of that is due to the fact that one of our members makes the most delicious cakes I’ve ever in my life tasted.

This year their table had a Shakespeare theme and she made a cake that looks just like the Globe Theatre. If you’ve never been just look at the cake…it’s identical right down to the thatched roof except of course this roof is chocolate icing which is so much better don’t you think.

This one is hosted by our BEES group which is an acronym for something but basically is an activity group for moms with kids in British schools or ladies who think they will be here long term. They did a bee theme of course.

Bet you can’t guess what country the moms who created this table are from?

This was one of my favorites this year. It’s an Alice in Wonderland theme and it was just so pink.

Did I mention we dress up a little for this meeting and you can wear a hat if you dare. This picture was taken at last year’s tea party.

There is one other piece of information they tell you when you first arrive …they tell you that one day it is going to be hard to leave. And you say, yeah right. Because when they tell you this you are a brand new ex pat and you still have that deer in the headlights look about you. And you don’t believe them. In that moment of being new…when you’ve been here just over five days and you have already dinged the car mirror (maybe even twice or maybe every time you drive) and you can’t operate your washing machine which incidentally holds exactly one pair of jeans and a sock and takes 55 minutes to run a ‘quick wash’ and you are frustrated that your mini frig looks full when all that is inside is a pint of milk and two cartons of yogurt and you are missing your mother and you don’t remember how many kilos equals a pound or if you ever even knew that, and your teenager is sad and you can’t make it better, and you try to order carryout and they don’t know what you mean because you say carryout instead of takeaway and you are just so bone weary exhausted and everything about your new home feels not quite right and what you really want is to just lie down and have a good long cry….

In that moment you cannot imagine that one day you will have a blog and you will say they were right.


  1. When I read your blog, the word "LOVELY" just keeps coming to mind. I will pray for you as you make your move this week.

  2. What a wonderful post. I got sidetracked reading the whole thing! But it makes me sad to think that you are sad to come back. Let's reverse that entire post and remember that someday soon, you'll be glad to be back home. Family and friends await! Yay!
    I will pray for you as you get through this week. Keep us posted on how the dog is doing. I worry about them on such a long plane ride.
    Chin up! Happy Day! Big HUGS! Karen

  3. Isn't it crazy what we women do when we get together and we have such fun! Love the table decor and the hats. I haven't been by in a while and see you're moving back to the US. Welcome back and I know you will miss the lovely scenery and friends in the UK. Wishing you a smooth transition. Connie

  4. Clicked over from The Red Clay Diaries. Know similar feelings, though all of our moves have been domestic. I love high tea, tea parties, etc. Several churches where we have attended I have hosted a tea table similar to this experience. Yes, friends are family you choose when you live away.

  5. Joyce - I am thinking of you all this week and wish you strength through the move. We love you and Tim and can't wait to see you on this side of the pond!

  6. I do enjoy reading your blog, and I think I'm going to be sad when you leave England. What will you write about? Well, I'm sure it will be good.

    Oh, and that Globe Theatre--what a work of art!!

  7. What a great organization. Looks like you all had some wonderful times together. I love all the table decorations & you ladies in your hats.
    That cake is amazing!

    Joyce, you will be in my thoughts and prayers this week.
    I hope you are blessed immediately with sweet, loving neighbors in your new city.