March 18, 2009

I’m not qualified to serve coffee …

It’s no laughing matter … though many of the Soldiers at the MP unit where I work seem to think so.

I got a call today from one of the Major’s spouses in my husband’s unit. The Battalion commander is leaving and we are having a farewell for the commander’s wife. I assured her I would be there as well as what dishes I would be bringing. She then began talking about those who would be there and who wouldn’t be. Now, both of these Major’s wives as well as the commander’s wife are ladies I feel comfortable talking to. We’ve shared a lot of laughs over the past two years, especially in the recent deployment.

Though I am not the “class clown” I am know for making people at ease with my antidote stories and comical remarks … though for the life of me I don’t know why people find me amusing.

So as we talked, she told me that she had enough spouses to serve tea but not punch, so I offered to help. It seemed logical enough. However, she said I was a Captain’s wife and therefore was suppose to serve tea …

“What! I joked, "I can only serve based on my husband’s rank?”

“Oh, yes,” she replied laughing and then set out to explain.

At a tea and coffee social service is according to seniority. I think it’s because like in a tea party, being allowed to serve is deemed an honor.

The rank order goes coffee, then tea, then punch. Depending on the level of function is who is allowed to “pour”. So at a battalion level the Lieutenant Colonel’s wife is the guest of honor, along with her special guests. So then the Majors’ wives pour the coffee, and Captains’ wives pour the tea. The punch is poured by the First Sergeant’s wives. But the dilemma was that none of the First Sergeant’s wives were attending.

“Where do you learn all of this? Is there a book, or it is like parenting and you just make it up?” I exclaimed.

“Oh, when your husband gets promoted you get various books,” she explained, still laughing at my astonishment (and probably my parental reference since we don’t have children yet and I’ve joked about that a time or two with her.)

“You mean I have to study to be an Officer’s wife? More than for my master’s?” I joked.

She laughed some more … I really think she has the greatest laugh. She reminds me of my aunt Laura who is very prime and proper and whom I strive to be like, but I digress.

After a few minutes of assuring here that I was not a drink snob, nor would I be offended if I were to pour the punch, I verified when I needed to arrive and bid her farewell.

Still thinking it was the funniest thing, I sat down and talked it over with the MP’s Rear Detachment Sergeant Major (we share and office), who hadn’t heard about it. Goodness, who knew.

Here I am, an avid collector of teacups and quite fascinated with the customs and traditions of both tea and military having done a bit of research, but now I find that I've bearly started. I am anxious to see what other customs and courtesies I will uncover in the next few years. Hopefully, until then, I won’t mess up too bad!

Until our next cup of tea …

*** Editor’s note: Since my husband is in an infantry unit, which is strictly male Soldiers I can say wives, but the “proper” term is spouses as well do have male spouses in the Army.


6 Tea Party Guest:

lime said...

wow, i never would have imagined and i am pretty sure my line of questioning on all of that would have been quite similar to yours. is there a special handshake too? ;)

Vee said...

I well remember all this protocol from when my first husband was in the army. It made me feel very "less than" most of the time. The military is an interesting social experience for sure.

You'll do perfectly serving tea!!

kbug said...

Wow, such formalities...must be a real learning experience for newcomers. I've never been one for formalities, though...probably a good thing my Army son isn't an officer..... :)

ancient one said...

I'm just laughing... I know nothing...LOL

liberal army wife said...

wow - am I almost glad my husband's unit does NOTHING. I don't think I'd do too well being told if I can pour a cup of coffee or not...Of course, since he's a W2 - O spouses don't know what to do with me, nor to NCO wives. It's like being a dog in a cat world.


Chaotic Mom said...

Okay, I've read through quite a bit of your blog and HAD to contact you. I LOVE this post, and many others. Would you be willing to share an essay (or several) in a project I'm working on? More information at:, and the Facebook page: Miltiary Spouse Books. What you have to share could DEFINITELY help other spouses who may follow in your footsteps. I look forward to hearing from you! ;) --Karin, milspouse of almost 20 years, sigh...