I took over the hostessing duties in my family at a young age. I think it was because my parents were divorced and I was the eldest daughter. I wanted to create that sense of family and tradition that we had lost, and so all the holidays and birthdays began to be celebrated in my home.
Because I wanted to show my siblings just how much I loved them, I went into what I call: “Hyper-Hostess” mode. Since this was before the internet, I spent hours poring through magazines and library books to come up with recipes and décor for each occasion. I always cleaned my house from top to bottom, shopped, made multi-course meals and handcrafted decorations.
It got to the point that whenever my family found out it was time for another party they ran away from me yelling, “Oh, no, crabby mom alert!” And, I was crabby. I didn’t accept any help because no one did things “right”. I really thought I was doing everyone a favor by doing it all myself. It was my love language and I wanted to make everything perfect for my guests.
And, then life changed. I became ill and I couldn’t do all the things I used to do. Illness forced me to give up so many things I loved and I vowed that it wouldn’t take away my ability to gather people together. But, it did force me to change my definition of a perfect party.
It was hard for me to let go of my crazy standards, but I was reminded of all the changes I’ve made when I gave a going away party last weekend:
Instead of cleaning my house from top to bottom, my husband vacuumed while I wiped down a few counters. And, then I welcomed houseguests two days before the party! Couches were made into beds, cribs were set up and the grandkids took out every toy and game in the house. The house wasn’t pretty and I had to remind myself to chill out, but it was filled with love and laughter.
Instead of spending days in my kitchen cooking and prepping, my husband smoked a brisket in the backyard. And, while I napped, my houseguests went off merrily to a specialty store and bought every weird food they could find.
On the day of the party, my adopted sister (we adopted each other) brought a beautiful salad. My dear friend (knowing how ill I had been) spent a day making salads, muffins, appetizers and a fruit tray. And, to this bounty, we added all the fun foods my kids had bought. The meal was, shall we say, eclectic? But, people happily mingled in the kitchen and around the table sampling everything. Gone were the days of a set table and perfectly balanced food dishes, but no one cared. In fact, they seemed happier and more relaxed.
What had I been accomplishing with all that perfectionism? Was I really conveying the love that I wanted to, or was I just making my guests feel uncomfortable and inferior?
Sure, there’s still an ache in my heart for a set table, a lovely meal, a clean house, and handmade decorations. And, I kind of wish I could still do it all as a gift to those I love. But, I’m learning to let go. It turns out that my love language was archaic and not applicable to my life anymore. It’s hard to learn a new language, but with the help of those I love, I’m learning to communicate in a new way.
Read more of Ann’s contributions to allmomdoes here.