We host quite a few shindigs at our house, despite living in a manner that implies we don’t entertain often. Outside, the flowerbeds are full of grass to the same extent that the lawn is full of bald spots. The default color setting for our pool water is avocado. Inside, the entry is regularly booby-trapped with backpacks, sports equipment and some random assortment of fireworks, whether it’s July or January. Meanwhile, our bite-sized dogs, the McNuggets, stealthily alleviate their thimbles-for-bladders in whichever carpeted area is most readily convenient.
These lapses in housekeeping barely scratch the sticky surface, of course. Without an Alice like Mike and Carol Brady had, we’re not set up for impromptu visits from the outside world. For homemaking or party hosting at our house, I am Alice and Carol… and complaining about my plight just like Jan.
My husband, on the other hand, leaps at the chance to commemorate any occasion on his home turf. “So-and-so had his gallbladder out! I told everyone we’d have dinner over here as soon as he can stand upright,” he’ll say. “There’s a re-broadcast of the javelin finals from the ’76 Olympics tomorrow night. It looks like 18 people can make it. I say we do shish kabobs.”
With all that practice, one might assume that our turnstile system of entertaining would function like a well-oiled machine – but inevitably, we devolve into a harried frenzy during that final hour until show time… which could begin at either 6 or 6:30pm. Actual start times get fuzzy because Bob forgets what time he told everyone.
Whatever the consensus, the house is never ready. At zero hour minus five minutes, any container within reach immediately qualifies as the vessel that will house all “non-essential-to-this-party” miscellany still strewn about. Such a container, filled to the brim, will be whisked to another part of the house where – God (and hostess) willing – untethered guests won’t stray.
At a recent Hammack soiree, the 6pm guests arrived in time to help carry in groceries, which included an assortment of fruits and cheeses. The 6:15pm arrivals washed and cut the fruit while I ran upstairs to stash the 40-lb shopping bag full of “non-essential-to-this-party” miscellany before freshening up to greet the 6:30pm crowd.
Enlisting help from party-goers who hadn’t planned to give it is tricky and can add to the chaos: some foods don’t make it to the party trays; things get shuffled around; the McNuggets are set free through the front door.
On the other hand, the “Dinner Guest Work Program” does accomplish all the pre-party things I needed Bob to do during that all-important “company’s a-comin’” hour before the party: Take out trash. Ice down drinks. Schlep all “non-essential-to-this-party” miscellany elsewhere.
Bob and I have, shall we say, different approaches to party prep. Minutes before the 6pm group arrives, I might prioritize cleaning the bathrooms guests will use, while Bob is inspired to organize the backyard shed or rearrange boxes in the attic. While I’m feeling urgency to clean the front door, Bob feels the same urgency to tinker with the broken sprinkler head in the far reaches of the backyard for 20 minutes.
For a week or two after the last party, we’d managed to keep the house uncharacteristically clean, yet something in the house reeked and was growing more pungent. Fifteen expensive candles couldn’t compete with this funk, so I placed a moratorium on all parties for the foreseeable future. The offending aroma originated from somewhere upstairs. Naturally, I first accused the McNuggets of indoor improprieties, but this time it wasn’t them: increasingly horrified sniffing led me to the bag near the foot of the bed.
The bag – stuffed with “non-essential-to-this-party” miscellany from 10 days earlier.
Holding my breath, I steeled myself to extract whatever was burning my eyeballs from inside the bag, which turned out to be the lost wheel of Brie from the fruit and cheese platter the 6:15pm guests were preparing at the party.
Now twice its original, refrigerated size, the Brie was obviously quite angry and intent on bulging free from the shackles of its round wooden container. In the pre-party confusion, it had quite mistakenly been labeled “non-essential” and had been relegated to the bag with the other clutter, unbeknownst to me or the 6:30pm guests, who had been dispatched upon their arrival to look for the missing Brie in the driveway, assumed to have been dropped by a 6pm guest who brought in the groceries.
Damn party guests. They ruin everything.
Details of the Prodigal Brie Party forthcoming.