Sunday tea speaks to civility

Lemon and raspberry tartlets are sweet treats offered as part of the recent Jane Austen tea.

Politics will always be with us. This past Sunday morning, I was flipping channels on TV and listening to various political talk shows that seem to dominate the airways. I listened to pundits from seemingly every side of many issues, chirping about their favorite candidates.

I heard people discussing the Coronavirus and whether or not the epidemic has hit our shores yet. I watched and listened.

In my head, I started an inner dialogue about whether people remember how to have a civil conversation.

A few hours later, I went to my first Jane Austen tea organized by the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Kansas City chapter.

The current local Coordinator Gaye Stevick hails from Liberty.

I bumped into Anna Marie’s Teas owner Brenda Hedrick and Hedrick’s daughter, Sarah Mathews. Another kind woman said she lives in Kearney.

My friend, Jan Lewis, who is a member, invited me after years of telling me how much fun she has because she’s united with others who love British author Jane Austen.

Sitting in one of the reception rooms at the Kansas City Country Club, I found myself surrounded by people, mostly women, laughing, chatting about the coming film adaptation of Austen’s novel “Emma” and when the group wanted to see it.

I found myself a bit awestruck as well. It was truly a juxtaposition after the morning’s television content of angry voices, bantering and jockeying with others to be heard over the escalating cacophony.

At our table, I sat with my friend, who serves as the North Kansas City Schools Education Foundation director, and next to me was an English professor, Jennifer Frangos, who teaches a class on Austen at the University of Missouri—Kansas City.

We had polite conversation.

The tea menu included dainty items such as tea sandwiches of cucumber, egg salad and chicken salad as savories with lemon and raspberry tartlets, too. Of course, there was tea.

It really was a respite from the overwhelming number of concerns that seemingly permeate all the corners of our lives.

We were concerned about making sure we used the proper table manners to pass the serving trays correctly or as many of us were wearing lipstick, to remember to go to the same spot on the water glass rim so we didn’t have a ring of lipstick.

The tea included member Julienne Gehrer sharing her culinary journey behind “Dining with Jane Austen.”

The presentation became this lovely trip through Austen’s many homes and family recipes.

As the presentation was on a small projector screen, we were allowed to move around. Gehrer encouraged people to move around to see. People were polite and moved very little, but only after being given permission.

What a genteel couple of hours. I know etiquette is not just about which fork or spoon can be used for dessert or how to pass dishes, it’s showing respect to those in this little corner of the planet.

In a world where rudeness often reigns, why not stand out for being polite and thoughtful, and practice a bit of the decorum that was part of everyday life during Jane Austen’s day.

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at or 389-6630.

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