Saturday, December 13, 2014


Many...many years ago, when I was a young, carefree, wild (well...not reeeeally...maybe more like "somewhat rowdier than I am in the present") Single Woman, I started a yearly tradition--one that lives on to this day. Way back when, I hosted my first Holiday Party, inviting all of my friends to my teeny apartment for some yuletide fun. In its inception, this shindig involved freely-flowing adult beverages, copious amounts of snacks, and everyone helping me to decorate my Christmas tree. It quickly became apparent, however, that perhaps the aforementioned...ahem...."spirits of the season" did not exactly facilitate decking the halls in the classy, stylish manner I desired. In fact, for several years in a row, I spent post-party day rearranging all of the ornaments into what I considered to be a more aesthetically pleasing design. (But that could just by my Type A personality overriding the festive...chaos...of the finished tree....whatever, it had to be done...)

So then--I honestly can't remember whose brilliant idea this was--it was decided that the group's...artistic energy...should be channeled into a more productive avenue: baking and icing Noel-inspired sugar cookies. In theory, this was a truly inspired plan, to keep people busy and achieve yummy treats at the same time. But...hmm...wait a we have revelers who are fueled by libations...while riding a sky-high sugar rush at the very same time...yep, can anyone say "recipe for disaster"? To be fair, some of the creations turned out to be extraordinarily inventive and colorful...and others just fell into the "not for viewing without signed permission slip" category. (Oh, yeah...GOOD times...)

Then (alas) we grew up a little, and began to acquire spouses--which, come to think of it, didn't really calm the annual fiesta down even one little bit. We just...stopped indulging our inner Betty Crocker, and instead switched to a nice potluck format. (Yes, I know that makes it sound so...mature and me, it wasn't...) Finally, though, little people arrived to join in the frolicking. (Actually, we can be blamed for this trend, if you will, as Derek was the first munchkin born to our merry band.) And for a period of time in those years, the focus of adorning the tree became "how far up to safely place the breakable ones"...and precious social time was punctuated by such necessities as feeding hungry kids, or chasing those who were getting into something they shouldn't, or figuring out where one had could possibly have vanished within the house...

Fortunately, we weathered these early storms, and eventually the offspring got to the point that they would arrive, say hello, then disappear together to play as their own group. It was almost as if there were two separate events occurring--one for the grownups, another for the minors...although all of the attendees would occasionally meet in the kitchen to refill a cup or grab some sustenance. These recent get-togethers were actually the ones I found most relaxing; after the flurry of preparing and setting up, all I really had to do was welcome old friends into my home...and mingle.

And then the lovely routine, which had just become so easy and enjoyable, got thrown on its head when we uprooted ourselves and moved. Obviously, 5 hours would be a smidge too far for even our most ambitious Maryland buddies to travel...even for a time-honored WestEnders gala. But sometime in the Fall, after we'd been here a few months, Husband suddenly asked, "Are we going to throw an Open House in December this year?" I was...startled, as the notion honestly hadn't crossed my mind. I couldn't immediately come up with a valid reason not to, though, so I answered with a tentative "Um....I guess so?"

After I agreed...and had a bit of time to think about it...the stress hit. Aaargh! We haven't met that many people--what if no one wants to come? And...I don't have anyone's phone number or email address, how will I invite them? And...and...what should I serve to eat? Plus, what if everyone here hates the kind of food I've always bought for these things in the past? Also...what if I make too much, or too little, and they get the immediate impression that I'm a terrible hostess? Speaking of which, what if there are some unspoken, very serious and critically important North Carolina rules pertaining to parties, and I break one of them, and the whole neighborhood shuns me...forever? (You see what happens when I have idle hours to ponder...stuff? I can work myself into quite an impressive...and ridiculous...tizzy, I tell ya...)

Once I finished the requisite freak-out, took a deep breath, and formulated a plan of action, I felt much better. First I printed out flyers and put them in the mailboxes of a few neighbors that we do know. Next I settled on a menu and raided Costco for supplies. Finally, I made lists (as I am wont to do) of exactly what needed to be accomplished and when, to help ensure that everything went smoothly. And you know what? It all worked out just fine. Most of the invitees did manage to stop by for at least a while. Guests seemed to enjoy the edibles. There was an abundance of lively, friendly conversation. I didn't get any kind of vibe that I'd violated a secret holiday-gathering-taboo (Whew! What a relief...) Husband and I got to meet the parents of some of Derek's and Riley's friends they've been talking about since the beginning of the school year, which was a bonus. To top it off, it was a delightful 60* day--which meant not only that I didn't have to corral coats, but also that the kids could take advantage of the weather and play outside for a good portion of the afternoon.

So, I think it's safe to conclude that we're keeping the tradition alive...just a few hundred miles to the south. Having successfully concluded our first Chapel Hill Holiday Open House, I can kick back, chill...and chow down on some of the mounds of cookies left by our new friends. After all, nothing quite says "celebrate the season" like a nice, post-festivity sugar coma...zzzzz.....

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