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Here we come a-polishing, among the eaves so clean
Mary Lee Hagert
It’s funny how the mind plays tricks on you this time of year.
You think you have plenty of time for decking the halls, shopping for seasonal foods, baking holiday treats, and suddenly you have the sinking realization there are only a couple days before the get-together you’re hosting and your to-do list is longer than Santa’s.
That was precisely the predicament I found myself in last weekend. As I hastily dusted objects that hadn’t been touched since last December, I wondered if the pressure I felt to have a spotless house when entertaining was a holdover from watching my mother polish everything in sight before her bridge club made its semi-annual visit.
Luckily for me, my sons were home from college and could be pressed into action. As Christopher grumpily used a broom to sweep the ceiling corners, he posited that no one ever looks up from the dinner table to notice cobwebs. They just might, I explained, and oh, the horrors of guests spotting ugly brown cobwebs dangling over the festive food. He rolled his eyes and gave me the familiar “Mother, you’ve got to be joking” expression.
Kevin, meanwhile, was dispatched to the main-floor bathroom with a bucket of cleaning utensils, since people actually DO have time to notice cobwebs while seated on a toilet.
When he seemed to be moving slower than a turtle on a sub-zero day, I decided to speed up the process by unscrewing the dust-covered glass globes on the overhead fixture above the sink. Teetering on a step stool, I instead nearly wrenched the whole thing from the ceiling. Thank goodness Kevin was there to catch me as I released the light fixture in the nick of time, avoiding a broken neck, and, more importantly, an emergency call to an electrician just hours before the guests rang the doorbell.
Unable to get the globes off himself, Kevin squirted them with Windex as he muttered something about risking electrocution and pointing out that the whole party would have to be cancelled if he “ended up dead.” Ignoring the grousing, I merrily explained that we all had to make sacrifices in order to achieve at least the appearance of a semi-clean house.
Then I was off to the kitchen to whip up the salads, chop veggies and prepare the meat. I hadn’t eaten much that day and was reaching into a bag of chips when I remembered a Curves press release I’d recently received.
It said that while the holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year, all the parties and delicious foods “can be a minefield for people tying to maintain their weight.”
It suggested never going to a party hungry, advice I hoped my guests didn’t heed. But there was no mention of what to do when the hostess was famished and prepping irresistible treats.
The Curves folks suggested eating a high-fiber, high-protein snack ahead of a party. So instead of chips I ate a handful of salty nuts and then another, and washed them down with a can of root beer.
Oh well, I thought, who has time to worry gaining weight when it’s all you can do to maintain your sanity while directing “helpers” and trying to get the timing right on all the food preparation? That latter one was especially problematic since the meat took longer than expected, and it didn’t help that my husband and I kept opening the oven door to check on it.
The guests arrived fashionably late and remarked on how pretty the table looked. The biggest hits turned out to be nothing I made, but instead Deborah’s cranberry chutney (as Kevin scooped his third helping, he whispered, “Mom, you have to get the recipe,”) and Courtney’s show-stopping pumpkin-cream cheese roll.
We talked and laughed the night away, and at some point I realized it mattered little that the house wasn’t squeaky clean or festooned with boughs of holly and Martha Stewart’s latest baubles. Instead it was a merry time with dear friends who didn’t notice -- or care --if there was a stray cobweb in a hard-to-reach spot.
As they bundled up to head home, everyone said we ought to do it again next year. And best of all, Deborah offered to host the get-together in 2014.
“Sounds great!” I replied, winking at my relieved elves.
Mary Lee Hagert can be reached at email@example.com or at 651-748-7820.