Friday, November 21, 2008

Home for the Holidays

I am looking at my Williams-Sonoma catalog today and feeling sad. I am not sad because I can't afford these items. I've accepted that truth many moons ago. I am sad because I love to entertain. I mean I LOVE IT!

Ever since I was a little girl, I have enjoyed baking, setting the table and making name place holders. I love it all from the planning to the execution when the guests all come into my home, take a deep breath in of the home-baked goodness in the air and enjoy each other's company. I envision the adults tossing their heads back and laughing genuinely at the conversations floating in the room while the children chase one another up and down the steps to our play room in the basement.

Although my own family is small and spread even thinner, I am delighted at the thought of living close to my husband's large family. His parents, still happily married, both sets of grandparents and all the cousins and nieces and nephews in between live within 20 minutes away. Those who don't, make it a holiday habit to make the drive nearby to be with family.

Last year, we moved into a home that I fell in love for a number of reasons but mostly for the possibilities to entertain. When family members came over for the first time to see our new home, I would share with them that I couldn't wait to have Thanksgiving here in this dining room and kitchen area! It was during those new home tours that I started picking up on some quirky mannerisms. For some odd reason, people are reluctant to want to come to our home for the holidays.

So reluctant in fact that last year, when I called and emailed everyone to come over, most everyone told me that they had other plans. Not wanting to choose paranoia, I decided to gracefully accept their decline to my invitation and plan for a Thanksgiving meal with just our nucleus family of four. The night before Thanksgiving, I was driving to the grocery store to buy our holiday trimmings when I got a call from Fred on my cell phone:

Honey, Katie and her family just called Great Grandma and they have all decided to come to town after all. They wanted to know if it would still be ok to have lunch with us, oh and by the way, can we make dinner instead? Oh... and Mom and Dad and my brother and his family will be coming too. So are the Hoover's. Is that ok?

OK? Well, of course it is! After all, I love entertaining, right? I just wish I had more time to enjoy the planning. I have a grocery list created for our family of four - not 24! And, I would have liked to have asked some of the family members to bring some side dishes. Not much time - or budget - to create everything in the next ten hours.

This year, I have tried putting my feelers out to inviting everyone over to our home again. However, it isn't well received. It seems that people just want to go to my mother-in-law's house. Why? She doesn't even like cooking or being a hostess. She has even suggested that we just come over for Thanksgiving on Friday instead of the actual holiday. What??? She doesn't understand or value tradition. Perhaps after years of the extended family showing up unannounced hours before dinner time, she has learned to be extra flexible. But come on! One year, we went to her house for Thanksgiving and she didn't even make anything! I think we ended up defrosting hamburgers from their garage freezer.

She's too laid back for my taste. And, maybe that is the problem, when people to come to my home, they see all that I have done to put into the meal and they are uncomfortable with all the fuss I make about things. I have learned to try to lay back on somethings. I have accepted that people do not like having assigned seating. So, I don't encourage my kids to make those cute artsy place cards that we love making. I have even realized that these people don't know how to sit down and pass dishes to the right. One meal I prepared, I placed the dishes onto the table and after prayer, people stood up with their plates and walked around the table to dish out their own food. That was quite an eye opener for me!
Our table place settings Pictures, Images and Photos

And, so, I adjust to my guest's needs. I think that being a good hostess is making your guests comfortable. Much to my secretly hidden chagrin, I now offer buffet style dining when the in-law family comes over for dinner. But still, I would like to teach my own children the traditions of passing food to the right, using the outer fork first, designing the perfect center pieces and learning the art of napkin folding! Those are all things that I have learned to love but will need to figure out how to carry these traditions on in spite of the clash of family values at meal time.

Just curious if any of you can relate to this? Do you have any suggestions on how I can keep the in-laws coming while still keeping my love to entertain?


Stonefox (otherwise known as Heidi) said...

It's been many years since I enjoyed a family get-together larger than just my husband and kids, but I have to say that I for one would love to come to one of your holiday meals! Name cards and all that makes it extra special, which I think holidays should be.

But still you are right about being a good hostess...I think our guests want to know we thought of them and we're not doing our activities as a bunch of fluff to make ourselves look good or to show them up.

AC said...

Hi All! Just realized a way I can have my nameplated dinner and eat it too! I'm working on my new post right now and should have it posted by Sunday p.m.!

Elizabeth Channel said...

I just throw those catalogs away. So freeing!

I'll bet Stone Fox hasn't seen one in a long time.

(That's probably freeing, too!)