Thursday, August 9

End to a Wilkinson Tradition

by Margie Senechal

On Saturday, my heart will break a little when Myrtle's Tea House and Herbery closes her doors to afternoon teas as the owner, Elizabeth, enters a new and exciting venture.

But, before that happens, I wanted to share how Myrtle's helped heal our family.

In March of 2009, we lost our father unexpectedly. Well, as unexpected as you can considering he was a diabetic who'd had triple by-pass over twenty years before. 

At the end of May, it was my sister, Debbie's birthday. And our family had always gotten together for a family dinner, cake, and games.  Mom was still deep in mourning and the prospect of having a family dinner--even her special tostadas--was simply out of the question.

*A little Margie family history to fill in the blanks. I am the oldest of three sisters. Debbie is two and half years younger--for some reason we've always added those extra six months. And Wendy is eight years younger. Once we hit puberty, Debbie and I could barely be in a room together without some sort of rift (and that's a nice way of putting it) occuring.*

Wendy had heard of a tea house in Ridgefield and made reservations for the four of us to celebrate Debbie's birthday. That first tea, barely two months after Dad's passing was especially hard on Mom. She was near tears most of the time, but trying to be brave. Debbie and I were on our best behavior and for the sake of decorum and Mom, we got along without even a tiny squabble.

Toward the end of the lunch, Debbie inquired about the restroom. She was directed to it with a garbled statement. When she returned, I asked what had been said. She looked at me and said, "They wanted me to leave the door ajar when I was done."

I nodded because that made more sense than what I'd thought I'd heard. The thing about sisters is that they know you so well that a simple nod is never a simple nod. "Why?" Debbie asked. "What did you think they said?"

I knew I wouldn't get away by avoiding the question. "To leave your pee in a jar." I'd actually pictured a mason jar on the floor for such a purpose and decided, no matter how bad I had to pee, I'd wait till I got home.

Mom roared until tears fell in happy cascades. I guess if she was going to cry, this was the way we wanted. None of us ever forgot that moment, because laughter conquered grief. At least for a little while.

We've kept up the birthday teas since then. And two years later, my daughters joined us on a Christmas tea in December and then every birthday tea after.

Those civil teas made Debbie and I realize that we could be nice to each other and get along and we are now closer than we've ever been. It only took 50 years. And sometimes, when life is especially hectic, those teas might be the only time all of us are together and just us.

Ironically or serendipitiously, Myrtle's last day is Mom's birthday. Unfortunately, we won't be there. We celebrated our last tea for Debbie's birthday. Kind of full circle. We just wish we'd known it was going to be our last tea there.

Good luck, Elizabeth. I hope your dreams come true.


  1. those teas sound lovely and what a wonderful way to get together!

  2. Oh, Margie, I love this and I'm sorry Myrtle's is closing. Nan's and my favorite tearoom closed, too, and I still hate knowing we can't go back there. I loved the memories you shared.

    1. Thanks, Liz. I hate in when favorite places disappear.

  3. What a sweet story, Margie. I love that the tea room helped heal the rift between you and your sister.

  4. They are! They became a highlight in our lives.