In our family, First Born Sister is the glue that binds. This isn’t just because she is the only of the siblings to give our parents grandchildren (and therefore the most revered of the offspring) but it is simply her nature. She’s incredibly supportive and encouraging … to the extent of becoming self-appointed agent to us all. She has always been concerned with how I am, where I’m going (the literal answer sometimes slightly further afield than she may have imagined) and how I will be.
This was particularly true pre little-people life when I would call around to herself and eternally patient brother-in-law’s cosy home, tired and emotional from perhaps one too many glasses of punch the night previous and experiencing a serious case of PLOM*. As excepted I would be offered sympathy, open fire, couch, papers, tea and lots of yummy food throughout the day. In fact I would still be offered all of the above now were I to arrive in such a sorry state but these days the little-people wouldn’t be quite so understanding … they’d be expecting ‘enthusiastic aunty’ (punch overindulgence or not).
It is these traits of First Born Sister that make her relationship with her birthday all the more amusing to us. She loves her birthday. I mean REALLY loves it. Our parents have always made a huge fuss of birthdays ensuring we are the world’s most important person from the time we wake up. The fact that she is now one half of a set of parents herself has done nothing to dilute her anticipation. This year, approximately 5 days into 2011 and therefore 2 months ahead of her next ‘big day’, I received a text to tell me she had read about a place she would like to visit with Mama and Youngest Sister to mark the occasion. Just in case I may have let this slip my mind the text was followed by an email to us all stating that March was fast approaching and as she entering her favorite part of her year (i.e. ‘the countdown’) she would like us all to organise a morning where we could join her in Teas & Treasures shop in Celbridge.
She had read about the store and was coveting a set of antique wine glasses that she had seen in a photo. There was then a weak attempt to suggest the trip was really being for my benefit. This was swiftly followed by a lament as to how the 6th of March was by far her least favorite day of the year because it was the furthest away from her next birthday. Yes I’m still talking about First Born, company director, mother of 4, Sister. This one day however turns her into an 8 year old girl with reoccurring nightmares of her parents forgetting her birthday.
And so it was that on the sunny Wednesday morning prior to the most anticipated day of the year that four adult ladies took the morning off work to make their way to a neighbouring county for a birthday tea party. As we walked in the door of Roseville House it struck us how intimate the set up. Small tables with wooden chairs covered in mismatching fabric invited us to gather our feet underneath and discuss breakfast options. Once teas and scones were ordered we all wandered in turn to the back of the store where I was certain a great grandmother had just prepared her drawing room for the Vicar’s visit.
The beautiful antique furniture was adorned with accoutrements for dining and serving. Our glamorous duo of shopkeepers (whom we all assumed were mother and daughter but may stand corrected) were able to shed light on those attractive but unidentifiable pieces which we call wanted regardless of purpose! The china sets recalled chatter from neighbours visits as elegant cakes stands and pristine linen pleading to prepare for visits once more. Although the space housing the collectibles isn’t big, we delighted in uncovering further curios that we had overlooked at first glance.
Mama was immediately drawn to adorable handmade cards on display near the counter. On expressing admiration, we were told that it was the loving handwork of the owners sister: ‘Noella’ as the handwriting on the back of the cards read. Incredible to think the love and time that went into these with each just costing €2.50. While the walls were decorated with delicate artwork the book shelves were brimming with stories. I became completely immersed in one particular book and (not unusually for me) missed the ‘rare’ label beside the shelf. Etiquette for Women was enlightening me in the social graces required On Being Entertained and Giving A Little Dinner Party. Thoroughly charmed by the formality and earnestness of the book I declared that I simply had to have it! As I enquired about price I was duly advised that some of the books were first editions and therefore the price would refelct this. Alas, this was one of those books. ‘Next time’ I said, reluctantly putting the book back on its shelf.
By now First Born Sister was happily au fait with all in the store and, delighted with her purchases and gifts, we bid the ladies good morning. I wished them the best of luck with their venture and hoped that sales would be great for them …. although I admit I didn’t include ‘my’ book in those items I wished a swift sale!
Later that evening I was handed a red-paper wrapped package by Special Gentleman ‘courtesy of your Mama’. I eagerly unwrapped the package but I knew instinctively what the shape and smell meant. The book was even lovelier than I remembered! I recalled the morning, wondering when she would have gotten the opportunity to buy it, and I remembered briefly popping to the powder room. I thought of how they must have all worked fast claiming, wrapping and paying for the book before I returned to the counter. Amused, I considered what the ladies would have made of the covert activity… but then I remembered that they had girls in their family too so would no doubt completely understand such goings on.
*a wonderful expression created by Mama meaning ‘poor little old me!’
Tea and Treasures, Roseville House, Celbridge, Co. Kildare