I was overjoyed when my college friends Erika and Curtiss told me they would be swinging by Long Beach on their way to New England in August (via Port Jefferson-Bridgeport ferry). I looked forward to showing off my current stomping grounds and introducing them to my menagerie (my “puddises”, as Erika would say), not to mention spending some in-person quality time, however brief, with two of my favorite people on the planet.
The preparation was spot-on: I scrubbed and vacuumed to reduce, to the extent possible, the voluminous pet hair given that Curtiss has certain sensitivities. I bought a fruit platter, plenty of bottled water and a case of assorted flavors of Strongbow Hard Cider. I packed a gallon-sized Ziplock bag of ice from multiple fill-ups of my lone ice tray, and I even got cannolis from Country Boy Bakery! But it utterly shames me to say that I failed MISERABLY in the execution.
I don’t seek forgiveness for my faux pas – I don’t deserve it – but I wish I could come up with some valid explanation. I was so happy to have my good friends here – separated by distance and time but just as fond of one another (if not more so) than we were thirty years ago – and to enjoy our easy, comfortable conversation. But how did my enjoyment of our pleasant time together somehow short-circuit some mechanism in my brain that caused me to forget a fridge full of snacks and beverages that I had purchased that very day for this very occasion? It’s inexplicable. I offered them NOTHING. Not the fruit, not the hard cider, not even a lousy bottle of water. It was bad enough that I had forced them pay for an overpriced hotel room rather than letting them stay here (actually, I did offer, but my current living situation is not as conducive as I would have liked for hosting sleepover guests, so I probably telegraphed my reluctance). But while we sat out on my terrace, enjoying the late summer evening and chatting non-stop for a couple of pleasant hours, I did not once think to go into the kitchen and bring out the refreshments.
Fruit and Bev
And to top it all off, there was no music!! I always yearn for opportunities to share my music in real time with my friends, especially ones like Erika who share my love of good tunes. We’ve lately been exchanging by email YouTube videos of performances by some of our favorite artists, old and new. Why, in heaven’s name, for the hour-plus we were sitting out on the terrace – with all the windows actually open for a change, given the reduced humidity, enabling me to give my AC a break for the day – did I not turn on my stereo? In fact, I had just a week or so ago told her about an artist I had discovered on WFUV, Angel Olsen, and her new song, “Shut Up Kiss Me” that I could have played for her!!
What makes my shame even worse (if that’s possible) is that these are the folks who were so very gracious and generous with my daughter and me when we visited them in Greece, even helping to plan the vacation from start to finish and then schlepping us everywhere, even though Curtiss was suffering with a painful foot. When I visited them for an overnighter at their apartment in D.C. a couple of years ago, they very kindly picked me up and dropped me off at the airport (which wasn’t around the corner), fed me and put me up on an air mattress in their living room. Even on this visit, they actually took ME out to dinner at the local Thai restaurant rather than the other way around. Gah!! The more I think about my oversights, the more horrible I feel.
I remember, as a kid, helping my mother prepare for her bridge and mahjong get-togethers, setting up the card tables with the pull-out legs and putting ashtrays and finger bowls full of nuts and M&Ms on every corner. When we finally managed to clear out my childhood home, for some reason I took a whole closetful of dessert platters and chip ‘n’ dip sets and china serving bowls, perhaps in the vague hope that I would someday have guests for dinner and maybe even card parties! (In fact, that was one of the things Erika, Curtiss and I were talking about while I was forgetting to serve the snacks and beverages: what we were expected to do with all the inherited dish- and glassware that somehow no longer fits into our current lifestyles like it did for our parents.) So, in retrospect, I did grow up in a house where great care was taken in entertaining; I just didn’t inherit those genes, I guess.
While I’m quick to blame my recent anti-social tendencies for my failed hostessing abilities (i.e., it’s been so long since I’ve invited other humans into my home, I’ve forgotten how to do it), upon further consideration I think this affliction goes way back. In fact, I recall throwing a welcome-back-to-school tequila party early sophomore year at Trinity College with this very same Erika, where we diligently bought a couple of bottles of tequila at the local package store, lemons (which we carefully sliced into wedges), salt and shot glasses, and thoroughly cleaned our suite (really adjoining singles where we moved both beds into one room and used the other as our entertainment lounge). But instead of being the gracious hostess I had envisioned, I managed to make an incredible fool of myself, getting perhaps drunker than I’d ever been previously or since, before most of the guests even arrived, leaving all of the hosting responsibilities to Erika, which I’m sure she handled with aplomb. As for me, I became the literal centerpiece of the party, passed out on the couch in the middle of the festivities with a vomity towel draped around my neck. My antics pre-coma had to be shamefully recounted to me the next day (as I suffered with a grievous hangover to which I would have preferred death at the time), as the last thing I remembered was falling into the closet. I evidently did some floor circles a la Curley from the Three Stooges, tumbled into the shower in the communal bathroom, and pulled our My Little Puppy baby’s toy (don’t ask; I don’t remember why we had it, I just remember that we did, along with a set of Weebles that provided hours of amusement) randomly around the corridors of Jackson Hall.
Planning my wedding and even Darian’s sweet 16 party were moderately successful endeavors (although, in my opinion, wholly unnecessary) only because I left everything up to others – primarily the respective catering halls – although I did ask my friend Liz to do the centerpieces for Darian’s party, which turned out quite lovely: tall glass tubes filled with teal, aqua and lavender translucent stones with a flameless candle lighting them from underneath, purple florals and peacock feathers (my sister still displays hers in her family room). In fact, Liz is the polar opposite of me when it comes to entertaining: She is a fantastic party planner, and her table settings are uniformly perfect, especially if there’s a theme involved. And she never forgets a thing. (I always tell her, when I win the lottery, I’ll help her go into business as a party design professional, which I believe is her true calling.)
My prior disastrous attempts at parties have ranged from too much food for not enough people (on one sorry occasion, lobsters, no less) to not enough food for too many people. But never before did I have the perfect amount of food and drink and just somehow FORGET to offer it to my beloved guests.
I know what I can do to maybe, in some small way, make up for my abysmal hostess skills: When Erika and Curtiss return home from their trip, I’ll send them an Edible Arrangement with a note that says, “Here are the melons I withheld from you when you visited me in Long Beach!”
(P.S. If it’s any consolation – and it’s not – only the watermelon and honeydew in the fruit platter I bought were really any good. And that’s not just sour grapes!)