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Ginnie Siena Bivona is the mother of five grown children, and five grandchildren. She is the acquistions editor for regional publisher, Republic of Texas Press. She is also the Executive Director of Book Publishers of Texas. All of which, along with her writing, keeps her immersed in the world of books, her first love since she was six and discovered the joys of the Dick and Jan First Reader. She is the author of two cookbooks. This is her first novel.
To my way of thinking there’s simply nothing that smoothes away the sharp edges of the day quite like a nice hot cup of tea, served late in the afternoon, with a bit of a cookie or a scone alongside. Scones are best, of course, if you can find the time to make them. Jane will be here in a few minutes. Dear old anything-but-plain Jane. She’s the only woman I’ve ever known who can hold her own with the boys and knows exactly how to hold a cup like a lady.
The table is set in the sunroom. It’s my favorite place in this huge old house. Never mind that the wicker chairs are a hundred years rickety, and only a few scattered chips of the original bright yellow paint remain. Never mind that the plants have a dusty, unkempt look (I don’t claim to have a green thumb). Even on the drabbest days there’s something comforting about being in here.
Mum’s teapot (yes, I still have it after all these years) sits patiently waiting on the sink beside the stove. It’s already been filled with hot water to warm it up. The little silver tea ball filled with Earl Grey rests beside it, ready to pop inside its elderly rounded belly. I won’t turn the kettle on until she gets here.
Anyone who knows anything about tea knows you must get the water just to a full boil. You can’t make proper tea till everyone is at the table. I’ve gotten the water hot, though; it won’t take but a minute to get it right.
The doorbell rings; the sound jars in the tiled kitchen. I quickly turn on the fire under the kettle before I go to let her in.
On my tenth birthday Mum gave me my first diary. She wrapped it in white tissue and tied a red ribbon around it.
“This is your secrets book,” she said to me. “You can write anything you want in here, and it’s only for you to see. Not even I can read it.” She showed me the clever little lock and tiny key that sealed it from all other’s eyes. I was surprised at Mum giving me such a strange and wonderful gift.
“Do you have one?” I asked.
“That’s for me to know, not you.” She winked at me, and I remember how delicious her laughter sounded. Almost as delicious as the sweet milky tea and Aunt Germaine’s prize-winning orange marmalade-filled scones we shared in celebration of the day.
The first entry: May 15, 1935, (written in a careful round hand, all the i’s dotted with tiny circles.)
I don’t know what I’ll write in here, but Mum says this is my very own secret place and I’m to write down whatever I want. Nobody, not even Mum, can read it.
Today was my birthday and Mum gave me this book. Aunt Germaine gave me a new green scarf to go with my winter coat. Why would she give me something I can’t even wear till winter? I don’t think she much likes me.
They couldn’t come to tea for my birthday because Bernadette was sick again. She is forever getting sick. I don’t like her even if she is my cousin. So there. Here’s my first secret. I DON’T LIKE MY FAT COUSIN BERNADETTE. Aunt Germaine is always comparing her to me, and she is smarter, prettier, and better at everything in the whole wide world than I am.
She is mean to me and sneaky too, and she never gets caught. I’m the one who always gets in all the trouble.
Signed, Ida Mae Hampton.
Jane bursts through the door.
Now that I think of it, I don’t recall ever seeing Jane simply walk in anywhere. Off stage or on, she makes an entrance, into the house or into a room. I wonder what she looks like early in the morning going to the bathroom.
"Darling, darling, darling, happy birthday to you!" she trills. Packages are flung at me, and she whirls to grab still another bag left outside the door. It matters not to her that my birthday was months ago. Whenever she brings gifts, it’s my birthday.
Jane is not the least bit beautiful, and yet when you first see her, you think she is. Later you’ll say she is stunning or striking, but not beautiful. It’s the elegantly coifed masses of jet black hair, the greenest eyes the contact lens people could create, a bit of clever surgery, and a figure that she straps and wraps and cajoles into a junoesque centerfold marvel.
She smells like a French whore. But a very rich French whore, I must admit. I love her as much as anyone in my life. She is the life in my life.
August 18, 1939
Today I made a new friend. I think. She is very nice. Her name is Jane Potter. She is in my grade and we sit beside each other in math and homeroom. She is lots taller than me and braver, too. She is not afraid to talk to anyone, even the boys. I could never do that. I feel dumb. It’s hard for me to talk to the girls, and I really can’t think of a thing to say to a boy. I’m always afraid they will not like me or something. I wish I knew how to be better but I don’t.
Jane is just very outgoing. That’s what Mr. Goodwin said in math class. He told her she was very outgoing but that she was going to have to let him run the class. She told him he could unless she thought he was doing something wrong, then she’d have to step in. The whole class laughed and even Mr. Goodwin smiled.
I don’t know why she bothers with me but she does and I’m glad.
Signed, Ida Mae Hampton.
Posted June 29, 2000
Ginnie Bivona captures the essence of friendship in her warm novel, Ida Mae Tutweiler and the Traveling Tea Party. I originally purchased the book to give as a gift, but after glancing through it, found I couldn't put it down. I read it from start to finish in one sitting! Ginnie's artistry will place you in the story where you will live for a time to experience friendship, loving ties which bond a mother and daughter, and in the end, you'll be left with a longing to call YOUR best friend, mother or daughter. It's simply, a wonderful read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 30, 2000
My husband brought Ginnie's book home from the Barnes and Noble book signing yesterday (5/28/00) saying that she told him it is a woman's book. We knew Ginnie from several years ago and were pleased to see that she had been published. I took a look at it and started reading it. I didn't stop until I finished. I loved it! It's a wonderful story. In a short amount of time, she created real people and lives. I especially liked her vehicle for telling the story, starting with the present and paralleling the past, revealing it bit by bit. It reminded me a little of Certain Women by Madeleine L'Engle ( one of my most favorite authors). The recipes at the end make Ida Mae and Janet all the more real. I was able to identify so closely with the friendship between these two women. I constantly found myself thinking of my dearest friend and the times we have shared. We are not able to see each other very often so it makes the time spent together so much more dear. This book captures all the love and emotion of a real friendship. I will be getting another copy for mother-in-law. She will love it, too.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 5, 2000
The story of Ida Mae and her childhood chum, told in flashbacks from Ida Mae's diary pages as well as in the present tense. I love how the beauty of the tea ceremony is interspersed throughout the story. It is a touching story of friendship and being strong for each other. The book details the ups and downs of two very different friends over many years and the characters are ones that I could relate to. It made me think of my own best-friend and wonder, which am I more like, Ida Mae or Jane? And the recipe's are yummy! It is a short, bittersweet read, to be enjoyed over a pot of tea! Please write more!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.