For me, entertaining conjures a fantasy.
You know the one. It goes like this: I breeze room to room, elicit witty banter from guest to guest, top off wine glasses, and throw my head back in jolly laughter. The food is aromatic, there is not a thing out of place, and I’m having the time of my life! And this soiree materialized like an effortless production. How did I do it? Again!
But, the point of a fantasy is that it deviates from reality. Right? I should have let this idea go many gatherings ago. Because I’ve learned from my mom, it’s not a get together if everything doesn’t fall apart.
Our annual, extended-family Thanksgivings exemplify this with clarity. There have been many perfectly cooked turkeys (brine it, that’s the secret), and Dad’s gourmet stuffing is prepared with a surprise ingredient each time. (Are those apricots?) This food-focused holiday rotates on an alternate schedule. One year my parents host, the next it lands in my family’s kitchen and occupies our dining room.
When it’s my turn, I tap into my entertaining fantasy and figure it will unfold like clockwork. And why not? I have a Thanksgiving file with notes on all the steps required. I don’t want to forget to buy the natural vanilla for the whipping cream or replace the stale salt and pepper that has lived in the fancy shakers since last year. Organization. That’s the key! But my mom shakes her head at my attempts to eliminate entertaining mishaps. Her ship sailed away from fantasy island years ago.
She’s been doing this longer. On a particularly frazzled holiday, the gravy was thickened with powdered sugar instead of flour, the oven didn’t heat up, and the green beans fell on the floor. Aunt Lucy came into the kitchen to assist. Mom told her sister in a state of irritation, “Tell them the goddamn dinner is ready.”
Aunt Lucy, as told, went to the living room where everyone engaged in belly laughs, political debates and libations. She surveyed the room. “Excuse me,” she said to quiet the family. Then, she theatrically enunciated, “Liz wants you to know, the goddamn dinner is ready.”
We laughed about it because in the middle of chaos, when tightly planned events become a circus, it’s the people who make the moment fun. We have referred to our entertaining events as the “goddamn dinner” ever since.
— Jennifer Cramer-Miller
Jennifer Cramer-Miller is a freelance writer and custom home consultant in the Twin Cities. She is the author of the forthcoming memoir, Happy to Be Here, and her published pieces are found in Brevity, The Sunlight Press, The Kindness Blog, The NKF Kidney Stories MN, The Emily Program Newsletter, and Mamalode.