Monday, January 06, 2014

Invitation to Tea

By Monica Lang

When Monica was a little girl living in England, a boy came to stay with her family, his name was George McCrie. This was in the early 1900s.
George's parents were English citizens living in India. It was the custom among the English to send their children home to England to be educated and that was why George was in England. He spent the next 10 years, studying in England with periodic visits home to India. And in due time, he became the manager of a large tea plantation there.
To Monica, George was her protector against the teasing and torments of her many older brothers. So it wasn't very surprising that the hero of her childhood turned out to be the love of her life. So at the young age of about 18, Monica found herself married to George and living in the wilds of Burma while George ran the tea plantation.
Coping with life in the tropics in the 1920s was quite a challenge for Monica. Unfortunately, she ignored George's advice about protecting herself from mosquitoes and she became very ill with malaria. She was able to recover after a while and realized that she had to grow up and face the realities of her situation. So she set about creating a comfortable and welcoming home for herself and her husband and, in a few years, for their little daughter, Elizabeth.  Despite the dangers of their location, what with the tigers and the cobras and other wildlife, and the brutality of the climate in summer, Monica grew to love it there.  But when their little girl was about seven, George was promoted and made manager of a larger tea plantation and they moved away from the jungle and to a new location.
Life in the jungle had been rather isolated and the new location offered much more opportunity to socialize, as it had quite a few English folks in the area. Monica missed the peace and beauty of the jungle but really enjoyed being around her peers.
But then the day came when it was time to send Elizabeth to England to go to school. Monica and George traveled there with their daughter but George had to return to his job and Monica stayed on to get Elizabeth settled into school. Elizabeth was very unhappy at being separated from her mother and Monica almost decided to stay in England for her daughter's sake but then felt she should be with George.
So back she goes and it all seemed to work out for the best. George got promoted again and their new home had electricity and an indoor toilet and a modern kitchen, quite a change from their previous dwellings. She and George had another baby, Rosemary, born almost ten years after Elizabeth. Life was good. But looming on the horizon was the chaos and destruction of World War II. Before much longer, Monica and Rosemary were refugees headed to South Africa with George staying behind, doing his duty. Nothing would ever be the same again.

This true story was really interesting, a picture of a different life and time. At that time all the normal housekeeping chores were done by servants. The house was lit by oil lamps and candles and food was cooked on a wood fired stove. They had servants for inside the house and servants for outside the house. That was one of the reasons that the social round was so important for Monica, because she had very little with which to occupy her time, all the cooking, cleaning, gardening, child care, laundry, etc was performed by servants. One of the local English people advised her to develop hobbies just so she would have something to do. And it is not as if she and George were wealthy, George had to work for a living. They couldn't even afford to buy a decent car.

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