Mad Hatter, Where Are You?

I love Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the zaniness, the hidden messages, the tripped-out quality that makes you wonder what happens next. The Mad Hatter’s tea party scene is one of my favorites, perhaps because of the characters (the ones drawn by Disney and the ones portrayed in film).

I hosted a table at a Tea Party recently and the chairs were not filled with weird characters and there were no verbal assaults. There was no Mad Hatter, March Hare, White Rabbit, Dormouse or even an Alice. No-one tried to drown anyone in the tea pot.

It was all very sedate, very proper, and very elegant. The plates were bone china, the silverware was sterling, as was the candelabra in the center. Cloth napkins were rolled into silver rings with a flower tucked into the center. As I was the host, and I write wine country novels, the table décor featured grapes with baby’s breath on a silver plate at the base of the candelabra.


I’m not very good at this sort of thing, but it was a fund-raiser for a writers’ group I belong to, so I did my duty. Looking back, I should have jumped up and shouted, “It’s six o’clock.” It was noon, but that might have stirred things up a bit. At the Mad Hatter’s table, it was always six o’clock because he’d been accused of killing his friend Time.

At my tea party, the guests were dressed nicely, spoke politely, and ate dainty crust-less sandwiches and assorted finger desserts. The tea was poured into fragile flowery cups the guests could take home. There was a motivational speaker (who was excellent) so no one was required to make conversation. If Dormouse had been there, he would have stayed awake.

I provided gifts in little green bags. The bag contained one of my books, a cookie, a pouch of chocolate kisses, and a tiny notebook. The only non-boring items were mini bottles of wine and a sponge. Sponge? It was the only thing green I could find on short notice and it was St. Patrick’s Day. Okay, the Mad Hatter might have liked that.

It was, after all, a bit of nonsense.

The conversation was sedate. No one spoke in riddles. No one made fun of their tablemates. We were all strangers, after all. It would have been improper to shout, “I mean what I say and say what I mean,” as Alice did, or to have someone respond, “Does that mean you see what you eat and eat what you see?” I don’t remember Lewis Carroll’s exact words, but it was something like that.

The fact is, we all spoke little. We all cleaned our plates and drank our tea. We all listened intently to the message from the speaker.

And I, for one, was thrilled to have it end so I could go home without saying, “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.” I guess tea parties aren’t my thing.

Did you like the book or one of the films? What was your favorite scene?

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