Jennifer Pickrell

YA Writer

Snowy Memories


I finished Trapped by Michael Northrop last night and it freaked me out a bit.  If I’d gotten trapped in my high school by a monster blizzard, I probably would have gone into a full-fledged meltdown.  It’s a good thing I married a guy who is cool under pressure and who could probably survive the apocalypse by using the meager resources around him.  Think MacGyver without the mullet. 

Speaking of hubby…(I swear, this eventually turns into a snow story)

He and I met on Friday, January 5, 1996.  He went to a different school, but a mutual friend invited us both out.

We ended up at The Tea Room, this little place in the “bad” part of the neighboring city (or as bad as a rural city can be).  It was run by Vivian, this sweet, tiny woman with a giant, sweet dog that I suspected would not be so sweet if you ever threatened his human.  It was *the* hangout for all the weird, artsy-type kids. 

On any given night, you’d find a girl/guy sitting in the corner, sketching or drawing by the candle-light, and of course this made them seem insanely mysterious and attractive.  And it was a place where people were more comfortable – we weren’t the “freaks,” like we were at school and there weren’t any loud dumbasses shouting slurs at our gay and lesbian friends.  Everyone, regardless of what area school affiliation, and if we even knew each other, would talk like we’d known each other for years.

The wallpaper was burgundy velvet and there were white Christmas lights as decoration – see outside pic here, it’s from the 70’s, but it still looked the same in the 90’s and I’m sure it looked similar when it opened in 1927.  And more pics here from the FB tribute page, I think it’s open to the public. 

We sat at wobbly, mismatched tables in wobbly, mismatched wooden chairs and the bathroom was about the size of a shower.  There was a jukebox in the corner with an eclectic mix – everything from Puttin’ on the Ritz to U2’s Spanish Eyes (although it was set to double-time and we mostly played it for the novelty) to Santana’s Brightest Star, which my friends hated and I loved, so when it would come on, everyone in the room would turn and glare at me.  I would laugh victoriously. 

It was called The Tea Room and, you guessed it, it served tea.  Also coffee and fruity drinks, like orange-aid, and sometimes dessert, usually on the dog’s birthday.  I always drank ginger tea because Vivian gave it to me one time when I had an upset stomach and I ended up loving it.  Although once, a friend and I tried a new kind and we both hated it and didn’t want to appear rude by not drinking it, so we dumped it out in a potted plant.  I still feel guilty about that.  Like I’d just insulted my grandmother or something.

So this was our teen hangout and it was where I went the first night I met future-hubby.  Me, being my charming self, said something like, “You suck, don’t talk to me.”

But he didn’t listen and he finagled my phone number out of mutual friend and the next day, as the snow was falling down during the start of the Blizzard of 96, he called me and we talked for hours.   I still remember that afternoon so clearly.  I was in the basement on the word processor, typing away my first attempt at a YA novel (about Jewel and the two brothers who love her, and vice versa) and listening to NIN’s “Something I Can Never Have” over and over again for inspiration.  It was a cassette and it was the last song on the side so it would click off and I’d patiently rewind, doing that whole stop/play/stop/play thing.

My little corner of VA got about four feet of snow and it melted away, but future hubby and I were friends by then.  And we’ve been in each other’s lives since then, even when we weren’t in each other’s lives.

Unfortunately, Ruth’s Tea Room was razed a few years ago for downtown “revitalization.”  So no more building, but tons of memories.

And I have a soft spot for snow because of that weekend, talking on the phone and getting to know a guy who would go on to become one of the most important people in my life.


Author: Jennifer Pickrell

I write YA contemporary filled w/ romance, angst & family drama. Things I like: cats, snacks, baseball, green tea, taking pictures of trees & movies so bad, they’re good.

5 thoughts on “Snowy Memories

  1. Aw, I love this story! I had a hangout like that in high school, it was called ‘The Cup’. I drank jasmine tea. My friend and I used to write screenplays there and we were known as ‘the filmmakers’ even though we never actually made any films. haha. There was also an edgier version of ‘The Cup’ in another part of town called: ‘The Witches Brew’. We used to moonlight there. I love it that you had a tea place too! 🙂

    • It’s so funny that something that seems so old-fashioned was so cool to a bunch of teens. I’m pretty sure that if my tea place was still open that kids would still be hanging out there.

  2. Wow! This was a neat post to find online.
    I really loved that place too! I remember that blizzard hitting Winchester in 96 aswell, last time that I spent the whole day sledding. I cant believe they razed that building (having just learned that.)
    Anyways, I found this post searching for a song from that jukebox. Any chance you remember that song “Hawk” (or something like that) from the jukebox?
    -Adam DeVore
    Former Winchesterer

  3. Wow, fun, this brings back great memories from high school! I went to Ruth’s Tea Room a few times with Adam, and what stands out in my memory is how explicit and strict Ruth was about steeping times for our tea 🙂

    -Thad Hughes
    Another Winchesterer (or at least a wannabe)

  4. Hey Adam and Thad, thanks for the comments! Adam, I remember the song, but can’t find it when I do a search – weird, maybe it only existed in our little Tea Room? And Thad, YES, I would stare at my watch, not wanting to drink my tea too soon, for fear it would be ruined if I did.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s