What could be more elegant and enchanting on a winter's sunny afternoon than a lovely cup of tea served with an assortment of homemade sweet treats?
Assisted-living residents and invited guests of Pilgrim Haven agreed that it's the company and the conversation that put the class in the cup of tea as they celebrated the Los Altos retirement center's sixth annual Valentine's Day Tea last week.
"I love the people here at Pilgrim Haven," said Mardell Blaufarb, who taught arts and crafts there for 15 years before retiring. Blaufarb said she lives in the neighborhood and keeps her ties with her senior family.
Events coordinator Barbara Emerling has worked at Pilgrim Haven for 30 years. She said she organizes the Valentine's Tea to help make everyone feel special.
"Our residents grew up in a time when afternoon tea was common," Emerling said. "No paper plates and cups here … that's silver and china."
Amid red and white carnations, polished silver and a delectable array of cookies made by mother-daughter teams from the National Charity League, residents, off-campus friends and former staff filled the Fellowship Room at Pilgrim Haven to reconnect and reminisce.
"I'm kicking myself," Norma McBride said. McBride has lived at Pilgrim Haven for eight years and credits her decision to join the community to her minister. "He told me to register. I've been widowed for 14 years. … I should have come here sooner."
Although their mother passed away last year, sisters Dorothy Mansfield and Barbara Edgeworth still visit the friends she made at Pilgrim Haven.
"I imagine my mom came here," Mansfield said of the Valentine's Tea. "I've come to a lot of functions. Anything Barbara puts together is first-class."
Executive director Karen Jenney has worked at Pilgrim Haven for 23 years. Jenney said that the facility offers area residents the option to stay close to family and friends.
"It's a little community within the Los Altos community," Jenney said. "I think the biggest part is the socialization - to be with other people. They support each other, so they never feel alone."
Jenney said that Pilgrim Haven offers exercise classes, lectures, memoir-writing classes and field trips to keep the residents active and engaged.
"I look forward to dinners and conversation," McBride said. "We have classes, we go on trips … it's wonderful."
Reg and Nora Thorneycroft are both from England and moved to Los Altos in 1960. They shared a table with fellow Brit Winifred Emery. Both Thorneycrofts sipped on fruit punch, not tea.
"The English don't drink tea anymore," Reg Thorneycroft said. "They drink coffee."
Thorneycroft noted that women were clearly in the majority at this event.
"We're in the minority," he said of men at Pilgrim Haven. "We keep losing them." Thorneycroft will be 91 in March.
Jenney said that Pilgrim Haven's staff has been there a long time, which gives residents the feeling of an extended family.
"It feels like home," Jenney said. "You can't help but establish closeness and good friendships."
Thorneycroft said he will be back next year for the seventh annual Valentine's Tea, although he won't drink it.
"I'm gonna live to be 100," he said.