What?! Holiday party season ends on New Year’s Day? I didn’t know. I guess that’s one good thing about being ‘a little left of center’ – my party season is just beginning. It’s a very short-lived season, not even sure two gatherings constitute a season. But the one or two get-togethers I host are always after the first of the year. December is for family. January for friends. The timing started out as a way to celebrate without all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, now people look forward to the January parties. The house is still decorated, more with snowmen than Santas, the tree is still up, as long as the branches aren’t too droopy. Of course the lights are still up! The Spirit of Christmas still present.
This is Flat Connie. She attended one of my longest-standing gatherings, The Literary Launch into the New Year. The Literary Launch is a get-together of our local writing groups, and one year Real Connie was unable to come. So we improvised. Connie wasn’t the head of any of the writing groups, hadn’t published more than anyone else, wasn’t supposed to be the guest of honor – though Flat Connie came close – it’s just she was part of this family and it didn’t feel right not having her here.
Here I must admit I’m possibly the world’s worst hostess. I tend to leave guests to fend for themselves. If someone needs a serving utensil, they open the right drawer, without asking for location or permission. I’m horrible about checking if people need refills of food or drink, and relieved when they help themselves to both, even if it means getting into my fridge. One friend insists she’s moving into my walk-in pantry, and I’d be quite fine opening the door one day to find her camped inside. Somehow, despite my lack of social graces, my friends still see themselves as family.
My elderly friend, George, called one afternoon, “Kim, I’m out in your drive-way. Can I come in?” He’s coming to one of my January parties for the first time and wanted to make sure he had the right place. I was baking cookies with my grands and I looked around the kitchen. There were dishes in the sink and flour snowed onto the floor and my jeans. Grands had painted onesies for their soon-to-be-here brother and those were drying on the table and chairs. I’d showered that morning but didn’t wash my hair so it was curling out of its clip in a crazy-woman sort of way. In between projects the kids had scattered Legos through two rooms. All in all the house and I were a mess and getting messier. So of course I said, “Front door is open, come on in!”
And he did. He stood in my messy kitchen talking to my messy self while I watched the oven and slid cookies off sheets. He told a story or two and I laughed, while my grandson waltzed between us as he cleaned off the table and dumped left-over dough and crumbs into the wastebasket, brought in handfuls of dirty cutters to clatter into the sink. George wasn’t bothered by any of it.
It was a good reminder that hospitality isn’t about having a pristine house, the perfect food or the perfect timing. It’s about making people feel welcome and comfortable. About saying, The door’s open, come on in.
There’s a saying that your first guest in the New Year sets the tone of your home for the coming year. I hope your first guests brought good juju. Happy New Year!