Whatever the poets say about April being the cruelest month, June beats it in the tea room. After Mother's Day, May’s bridal showers, graduations, parents visiting, and Memorial Day farewells-for-the-summer, the room goes so still that I am grateful when it is hot enough for the white noise of the air conditioner. Otherwise, I’d have to listen to the sound of the door not opening, the tea kettle never clicking “off” when the water boils, the oven not roaring to life for a Tea a la Bonne Femme.
When my husband was alive, he’d regularly come out of the office, stare at the empty room, and say, “Is this the year we go out of business?” I’d make us tea, then, or sometimes pull an espresso, to buoy his spirits and brace myself for the long reassurances into the night that no, this was just June, the month when we starve. It’s in the ledger. For 13 summers, this has been the most exasperating 30 days on the calendar. I finally have time to clean the corners, but I’d rather be baking. I finally have time to read cookbooks, but I am too beset by the feeling that nothing I bake will ever be eaten and appreciated by a real customer. Friends stop in expecting Elspeth and getting Eeyore; I have nothing good to say about anything. And it’s June! The month of summer-at-last, cracked-ice and cold fruity teas, berries in season, peaches!
This year is different. I counted my pennies, drove to Home Depot with Amy to buy paint, and enlisted Samia, Katelyn, Arsenio and Josefin to join me in a painting frenzy. Beer helped. Tea is useful, but when you want youthful exuberance to get to the end of the paint job before nine o’clock, beer speeds up everything
The room is still quiet. But I love the new look of spiffy surfaces and dustfree corners, a clear path to the office and accommodations for customers they have learned not to expect. I am writing here, now, while outside, the gentlemen in the construction trade appear to be dismantling the scaffolding we've endured for two years. I can only hope. In the meantime, stop by to say hello. I don’t expect you to buy anything—it’s June! But you will find a slightly less grouchy proprietor, feeling a little house-proud, and just under the scent of gingerbread and lavender-mint iced tea, the invigorating smell of fresh paint!