At the end of a blazingly hot week, we had Shannon’s wedding shower at the Grange in East Vassalboro. When I write “we,” I certainly do mean “we.” I had so much help that it almost puts me in a daze—albeit a happy one—to think about it. Before the shower even started, my husband, Clif, took off two days from work to help me with various projects, the chief one being to make over twenty little floral arrangements in empty tea tins. Since this was a bridal tea, we decided to make tea-tin floral arrangements as party favors for each guest to take home. Our eldest daughter, Dee, came home last Thursday, and she and Clif spent the better of a day on Friday making the arrangements as well as filling crockery and a brass pitcher with flowers. We wanted the Grange to have a country, floral look, and I think we succeeded.
While they “played” with the flowers, I brewed tea. Literally, gallons and gallons of it. With Clif’s help, I had come up with a procedure: Make a double batch of tea in the big teapot; put the teapot in the refrigerator to cool; when the tea was lukewarm, pour half into a pitcher; add water to the teapot and the pitcher; pour tea from each into a gallon jug and put it in the refrigerator. I know this sounds fairly straightforward, but each batch, from beginning to end, took quite a bit of time, and I had to really hustle to be sure I had enough tea for twenty-four guests or so. And, because tea will go bad, I couldn’t make it too far ahead of time. With diligence, I did manage to brew more than enough tea—peppermint and black—for everyone.
In between making tea, I also made a double batch of cinnamon pie knots and lemon frosted shortbread. Compared with making all that tea, those two desserts were a snap.
There were, of course, other details to attend to—packing the napkins, tablecloth, sugar, lemons, and so many other things that on the day of the shower, our little Corolla was so full that all the way to the Grange, I had to hold the cookie sheet of shortbread in my lap, and Dee had to straddle a big jug of iced tea.
On Saturday, the day of the shower, Dee and I got to the Grange very early. The older I get, the less I can hurry, and I like to give myself plenty of time to get things ready. Dee immediately started setting the long tables, and when she was done, the Grange looked absolutely charming. The red napkins and the tea tins with flowers complemented the country look of the Grange, with its dark woodwork, clean white walls, and red- and green-checked table coverings. I’ve written about the Grange in another post, so I won’t go into a lot of detail except to quote my friend Diane who said, “This place has a great energy.” Yes, it does.
The Grange has a big kitchen, complete with an old slate sink, and while Dee was setting the tables, I organized the various counters so that when the first wave of helpers came, they could start making sandwiches. My mom’s friend Esther was there to let us in—she only lives a couple of miles from the Grange—and help clean. Then came Kate Johnson, Andrea Maddi (a friend of Shannon’s since first grade), Claire Hersom (the groom’s aunt), and Gail Hersom (the groom’s mother.) What followed was a flurry of sandwich making—cucumber, ham salad, and pesto, fresh mozzarella, and tomatoes on sliced baguettes. Esther went home and brought her egg salad rolls. Lemons were sliced. Sugar bowls were filled. Plates were rinsed, wiped, and set aside. Desserts were set in platters so that they would be ready to serve after the sandwich course.
Oh, the desserts! Two kinds of moist chocolate cookies, lemon squares, coconut bars, blueberry cake, and, of course, the shortbread and pie knots.
My sister-in-law Rose came with a big bowl of fruit salad for the first course. My friend Diane helped serve the fruit. Shannon arrived, looking very fetching in a new sundress. A short time later, the shower began, first with the fruit salad, then with the sandwiches, and finally with the dazzling desserts.
Then there were the presents, a whole long table of them. We cleared a large space so that we could all be circled around Shannon as she opened the presents that would start her on her married life. Can it be any surprise that most of the gifts she received were kitchen presents, and very, very nice ones? Shannon will be able to ditch her dented old pots and pans and have a well-stocked kitchen.
One of the nicest presents came from my mother’s friend Esther, and it is one that will last only a few days. In her garden, Esther has some lilies that belonged to my mother, and on the gift she brought for Shannon, Esther attached one of the lilies along with a card explaining the lily’s significance. Shannon read the card aloud, and when she was done, there were plenty of sniffles in the room.
On the invitations, I had asked each of the guests to bring a family recipe for a recipe book I had bought. The book has plastic sleeves where the recipes can be tucked, and the book had been placed on a table upfront. Before the shower started, the guests put their recipes into the book. My contribution was Mom’s tourtière pie recipe, written in her own hand. Tourtière is a Franco-American dish, a spicy meat pie that we have for Christmas every year.
We didn’t use any paper plates or cups, and while this was exactly right for the tea and for the environment, I couldn’t help but wonder if Dee and I would be at the Grange until 9:00 P.M. or even later, washing and drying dishes. Instead, we were out by 6:30. As soon as the shower was over, a cadre of ten women or so sprang into action. Dishes were washed and wiped; food was divided so that the extras could go home with the various guests and helpers; floors were swept; tables and counters washed. When the hot water ran out for washing dishes, water was heated on the old gas stove. All I had to do was supervise and help bring presents to Shannon’s car.
Even today, the following Wednesday, I am still floored by it all. It felt like part of a tradition, ancient and nurturing, where women come together to help each other. (I know men have similar traditions.) As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, this is the best of the old days, so appropriate for the Grange. If only my mother had lived long enough to be part of it.
So, the shower is over. Now onward to the wedding in August!