Stealthy, silent…I move to the bedroom drapes. I carefully look thru the opening and see the enemy…two carloads of them. With no time to escape I step inside the bathroom, lock the door…and wait.
“Brooke, you in there? We’re waiting! Dinner’s on!”, my mother’s voice, filled with joy, beckons. Rats…there’s no way out of this.
It was my 16th birthday. All I wanted was my driver’s license, Mom’s lasagna and her famous lemon chiffon cake. The driver’s license had been achieved earlier in the day. As for the rest…I knew something was up as soon as I got home. Mom was just a little too giddy. And now I knew…the entire youth group from church had arrived for a “surprise” party. How could she do that to me??!
In the great scheme of things the party wasn’t a big deal and I managed to survive the evening in spite of my overwhelming desire to grab my new license, car keys and head for the open road. Mom was in her element, gliding about, delivering plates piled high with delectable goodies. I watched the clock.
My mother is an amazing woman. Now in her eighties, she loves to entertain still. I’m not sure my Dad likes it any better than I did back then, but he adores her so anything she does is A-OK with him. Hospitality is truly my mother’s natural-born gift…and she has that gift in a BIG way. Me? Definitely not natural-born.
Well, after that birthday I eventually finished growing up, got married, had a kid, moved to Alaska, had more kids. My house was always full of people, my own little people, other people’s little people, my friends, Doug’s friends, our together friends, family (when they dared to visit), the volunteer fire department, assorted hockey teams, cub scouts, boy scouts, church groups, co-workers, a crusty old Alaska sourdough named Fred and a serial killer. Actually, the serial killer wasn’t in my house, I was in his. And Fred is a whole story unto himself.
We also met a lot of folks with no place to go… quite a few of those wandering around Alaska. Most holiday dinners included a stranger or two. As my small Alaska house regularly entertained guests, I discovered my mom had mysteriously imparted many of her entertaining skills to me. It didn’t come easily, but after a bit of hyperventilating I usually figured out what to do. And I even almost kind of enjoyed it. Sort of…
Eventually there was a move to Oregon, more days of entertaining as kids graduated, married, joined the military. Then they all left. The husband (who isn’t big on party planning either) and I settled into a quiet, non-entertaining life. The old house suffered neglect for a variety of reasons I don’t have time to cover today and I felt embarrassed to have anyone over. So, I thought, that’s a good enough reason not to entertain at all, but really……….. it was just an excuse.
Recently I found a book and bought it strictly for the title….The Reluctant Entertainer. The author, Sandy Coughlin, talks about reasons people don’t like to entertain… such as kids. Well, even I knew that wasn’t a reason because I managed to entertain with a houseful…and some of them weren’t even mine!
She talks about making do with what you have, that it’s ok if everything isn’t perfect, and if you mess up a little don’t be apologizing all over the place. Just go on as if you meant it to be that way. From her view-point it’s good to let guests help you and even bring things. She also says to keep it simple. I like simple. And I like her book.
But I think the most important thing I learned while reading … entertaining is really not about me at all. It’s about reaching out to others, sharing what you have, sharing who you are…which sounds vaguely familiar as a 16-year-old in my mother’s house.
So, if you find yourself hiding under desks and peering thru curtains, I’d suggest you check out this book. It’s much superior to hiding in the bathroom. And then after you’ve had a little social event, there’s still time to grab the keys, the new license and head up the road.