Little Isabel awakened to the song of the rooster who delighted in crowing as soon as the sun peeped through the curtain of darkness. A shaft of light through the curtain cast a glow about the room. Isabel stretched and reached for her favorite item of the week – her first tea party invitation. She looked at the picture of little girls on the card drinking tea and eating cake.
“Just one more sleep,” Mama said last night after bedtime prayers. Isabel tried to sleep but every time she closed her eyes, she thought about the upcoming tea party. .
“My eyes won’t stay closed. I want to go to the tea party now!”
“I’m sorry Dear but Sally Anne isn’t ready for your party yet.”
“Well, Mama said softly as she pushed Isabel’s hair back, “there is much to prepare for a tea party – especially if it is also a birthday party. Sally Anne’s mother and Mrs. Cookie will bake special treats, they will set a pretty table and Sally Anne will probably have a new dress to wear for her special occasion. So you see, they want everything to be perfect for the party.”
“Will they have cake?” Isabel licked her lips in anticipation. “Chocolate cake?”
“Perhaps.” Mama answered with a smile. “Is that the kind of cake you would like for your birthday?”
“Oh, yes Mama!” Isabel sat on her knees and clapped at the thought. “With candy flowers on it too! Will they have cookies?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Mama said as she eased the child back under the covers. “There may be finger sandwiches too.”
“Finger sandwiches?” Isabel popped up again but this time with trepidation as she looked down at her hands.”
” Finger sandwiches are very small sandwiches. So small that you can pick them up with your fingers and eat daintily. Just like a lady or a princess.. Now go to sleep. The faster you go to sleep, the more quickly time will pass. Besides, we have a busy day tomorrow. Remember? We are going berry picking and then after dinner we will add hair to the dolly we made as Sally Anne’s gift. Then there will be one more sleep before the party.”
“Yes ma’am.” Isabel said as she pressed her invitation close to her face. “It smells sweet like peppermint.”
“Indeed.” Mama said as she kissed the child’s forehead and pulled the covers up to Isabel’s chin. “Sweet dreams, little ~*~
Isabel stretched again and slid her legs over the side of the bed. “Good Morning!” she called to her two older brothers on the other side of the curtain wall that separated their rooms. When no one responded, she called again. “It’s morning. Wake up Eugene. Wake up, Curtis!”
After breakfast, Isabel stood on a stool beside Mama at the sink. “I love washing dishes!”
“You are my good helper, Isabel!”
A bright smile lit her face at Mama’s compliment. At that very moment, baby Maggie banged on her high chair with her rattle.
“Baby Maggie wants to help too,” Mama said with a smile as she washed the dish cloth and dish towel and hung them on the rod by the stove to dry. She scooped up the baby and led Isabel back into her room. “While I’m changing baby Maggie, you may put on the clothes I laid out for you on your bed.”
Isabel ran into her room and returned to Mama with a pair of her brother’s old overalls. “Oh-oh Mama. You put Curtis’ clothes on my bed. I can’t find my dress.”
“Since we are going berry picking, I thought it would be better if you wear pants today. I don’t want the mosquitoes and chiggers to bite you.”
Isabel’s eyes grew large at the thought of bugs chowing down on her. “Mama, do I have’ta go?”
“Certainly. Berry picking is fun – especially if you dress properly. There’s no need to be afraid. I will be right there with you.”
“Mama, are you wearing overalls too?”
“Oh yes. I will wear a pair of Papa’s dungarees. We might look funny but we will be protected from the sun and insects. Besides, no one should see us.” Mama laughed as they changed into the “boys” clothes and checked out there image in the mirror.
“I look like a boy,” little Isabel said as she looked at herself in the mirror.”
“You could never look like a boy, dear. Come and sit down at the vanity and we fix your hair so that no one could mistake you for a boy. Okay?”
“Yes, Mama.” Isabel began to smile as Mama parted her hair, pulled up one side in one hand and wrapped twine around the little tail, tied it securely, and repeated the process with the other side. “They look like piggy tails,” Isabel squealed and shook her head, watching the pig tails bounce.
“Now,” Mama said as she securely pinned the coverall straps to prevent them from falling off Isabel’s tiny shoulders. “How’s that? Did you noticed I embroidered little hearts on your pants? No little boy would wear that!”
Isabel studied Mama’s handiwork and twirled around. “They don’t swish like a dress,” Isabel said as she tried to get her pants to swish with her. She giggled as Mama cinched the belt to Papa’s dungarees and joined Isabel in twirling. “You’re right. They’re not as much fun to wear but we won’t get insect bites or scratches from briars. Now, off to the berry patch!”
Isabel and Mama rode in the buggy to the nearest berry patch. “Just think, Isabel. Soon we will have our own berry patch and not have to pay a penny to anyone to pick them.” Isabel grinned as Mama pulled baskets out of the back of the buggy. “We need as many berries as we can carry. We will have preserves and jam to last all winter! Just remember to put more berries in the baskets and less into your mouth. Okay?”
By the end of the day, Little Isabel had been washed, fed and into bed before sunset. When Mama checked on her an hour later, Isabel was still sleeping soundly with her doll on her arm and the invitation in her hand. Goodnight, little Isabel. Tomorrow you will attend your long awaited tea party!
Photos used with permission.