“Life is not a Norman Rockwell painting ….” was a phrase I heard my father say many times to my mother growing up before (and sometimes after) a get together.Like most women, she would go into party mode where she’d plan and plan because every detail had to be absolutely fucking perfect . And let me tell you, every single get together was pretty damn perfect. From the brass horn napkin rings for the Christmas table to the place card holders made of jellybean filled jars at Easter, my mother considered every detail when entertaining. I remember saying to her, “Why do you care so much…just relax…” But I understand now. There is a pressure that exists. Whether we as women put it on ourselves, or whether we live in a society that continually holds us to a much higher and more unattainable standard than men, there is no question that we all feel it. I am formally calling out that pressure and telling it to FUCK OFF.
I have never hosted a formal sit down holiday dinner and I don’t know if I ever will. What I love about my husband is that he enjoys a casual holiday. Why entertain if you can’t have a good time too? What’s the point? This Christmas, where we celebrated quietly at home with friends, he was the one who did the cooking. I cleaned, baked cookies, put together a cheese plate, and essentially sat like a guest. Though I am a pretty good cook, he is an excellent cook- not to mention much faster and more efficient. When I cook a meal, the kitchen looks like our 3 year old conducted a science experiment. This Christmas Eve however, I learned that whether you have a perfectly set table or a perfectly cooked feast, all that really matters is that the time you spend with people is memorable and heartfelt.
We had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner with family. At the moment, our daughter is the only child, so she was overwhelmed with gifts and attention. It was probably one of the best Christmas Eve’s I’ve experienced in a long time and I am so grateful to have been able to be together with everyone. Just as we were all getting ready to leave, my mother in law told us she was going to spend the night at our place.
(Prior to coming to this beautiful dinner, for the second time in our life, my husband looked around and said, ” My God this place is A MESS.” And it was…I mean it really was. I had spent the day baking 5 more batches of cookies and a loaf of bread to bring with us. I braved the Christmas Eve crowd at Trader Joe’s with a less than agreeable kid . I let her do whatever she wanted so long as it kept her out of the kitchen. At one point, she took herself for a nap (OMG THIS IS AMAZING I THOUGHT), only to wake an hour later complaining she didn’t feel well.(The Christmas Curse!!!) She wanted me to sit with her on the couch for over an hour with a cold compress on her head. Meanwhile, wrapping paper covered the living room floor; our bed was covered in bags of bows and gift tags and the entire contents of my daughters toy chest lay on her bedroom floor.)
I went right over to my mother in law as we were leaving dinner and said ,”I’m so embarrassed but the place is a mess…!” She of course said she didn’t care and apologized for telling us at the last second.
We got home. I apologized again for the mess. I tried to pick up as much as I could, set up the guest bed and get our little one off to bed. The adults? We were up until 4-I usually can’t stay awake past 10. This was- to say the least- an epic night. My mother in law is strong, beautiful, independent, and sexier than anyone I have ever met. She is raw and honest and tells it like it is. I usually find her intimidating because of all this, but late that night, I learned the most I ever had about her and her family and their extraordinary life that existed worlds away and decades before I ever met them. I gained such insight about this woman and her son who grew up and is now my husband whom I love so very much. I learned this in the wee hours of December 24 when my kitchen was covered in a light dusting of powdered sugar and my sink was full of mixing bowls with now caked on cookie dough.
Take off your stockings and your Spanx- leave the dishes until tomorrow. Put on your yoga pants and grab a glass of wine. Life is so short. At the end of your journey, you’re not going to wish you had cleaned up your kitchen after every meal- you are going to wish you had breathed in every cell of those you love and dared to open your heart and filled it to its utmost capacity. The best moments happen when you get down from the perfectly set table and put on your comfy clothes …that’s when you connect …that’s when we can all stop trying so hard to be perfect and just be ourselves.