I am not the hostess my mother raised. I’m not sure where or when I fell off the wagon, but I’m absolutely certain I’m not on it. Maybe I never was.
I think she lost me at guest towels. Or maybe it was vacuuming the furniture or scouring the upstairs bathtub. Either way, despite innumerable skills she’s given me, I have not inherited my mother’s knack for party preparation. It’s something she and her two sisters have become quite tyrannical about over the years, even for simple family parties. Of course, they’ll just say it’s necessary to be prepared, and you never know who might need to use the upstairs bathtub, and for God’s sake get off that couch before you spill on it!
Family get-togethers are quite strained in my home…up until the family arrives. My father, my brother, and I are just one genetic link away from apes, so, naturally, none of us are allowed to move until the guests enter the house. If you eat, you’ll throw your food around for sport and smear mayonnaise across the counters. If you use the bathroom, you’ll splash water and frump the guest towels. And you’ll certainly have no intention of cleaning up after yourself. Even though these people will most likely sort through all our belongings when we die, they certainly can’t see trash in the kitchen garbage or a dirty glass in the sink or slippers at the bottom of the stairs.
When you come to a party at my mother’s house, you can be sure that anything you touch has never been drank from, eaten off of, wiped on, dipped into, or scooped out of before. Everything is disposable, new, or lined with a fresh paper towel. Weeks before we host a family gathering, my mother puts up signs to mark what is edible and what is “for party.” If you accidentally open something marked for the party, you’ll have to buy a fresh one and search for answers as to whether my mother marks things for her own health.
If you happened to attend the first annual Newport Christmas Party, it should be obvious to you that I am not at all the hostess my mother raised. Carrie and I thought we had things well under control – the house was more-than-decorated, we had perfect music, and we’d bought about four varieties of alcohol. An hour before the guests arrived, I was folding laundry, Carrie was reading a book, and we almost looked prepared.
Then the people started coming, and before we knew it, there weren’t enough seats. We scraped together two rockers and some kitchen chairs, and left everyone else perching on sofa arms or kneeling on the floor. By 7 pm, the pigs-in-a-blanket weren’t done, we’d forgotten to mix the Stylish Greeting, and everyone was asking for napkins. Soon the parakeets had to be put to bed, and somebody was getting stuck in the bathroom. When the house overheated, I propped open our back door with a bucket of compost.
In the end, it was a success, despite our slapdash fixes and improvised serving dishes. I, however, barely enjoyed it all. I just couldn’t stop thinking about our mismatched towels and wondering whether anyone noticed that I hadn’t scoured the upstairs bathtub.