Dog Tired

This is how I spent the day after the pasta party: in a reclined position on the couch like my pup Cali.

I just hosted a high school pasta party for the boys’ and girls’ cross country teams.

I can’t move, but this is one of the perils of parenting a teen into your 60s. While your sister and friends are enjoying grandchildren, you’re still in the throes of full-time parenting. Caring for a newborn at age 42 was tough, but that seems easy compared to parenting when you’re knocking on retirement age.

My exhaustion is mostly self-inflicted. I’m Italian-American, which means I can’t take shortcuts when it comes to food. I put up a double-batch of meat sauce, simmering it for hours so the flavors melded. I made marinara sauce for the vegetarians, and homemade pesto with basil snipped from the garden. I cross-hatched artisan bread, stuffing it with roasted garlic and four cheeses before drizzling it in butter and baking it.

I don’t particularly relish entertaining, but I can’t refuse a pasta party, the ultimate team bonding experience. Someone’s got to step up and let these kids blow off a little steam after their vigorous practices and looming meets. And judging by the decibel level and the fact that they stayed for three hours, they need to relax and unwind.

I spent much of the night feeling like an invisible short order cook in a busy diner – these kids scarfed down 10 pounds of pasta, a huge tray of macaroni and cheese, six loaves of garlic bread and salad – but I think it’s important to host parties. You can’t always be a guest in life – sometimes, you must don your hostess apron – and I want my kids to know how to entertain.

Hospitality is the relationship between a guest and a host, wherein the host receives the guest with goodwill, including the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt describes hospitality in the Encyclopédie as the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity.[4]

Source: Wikipedia

Hospitality is vastly underrated these days, but I think it’s something everyone needs to learn, cultivate and put into practice from time to time. You can’t expect to be invited places if you never host gatherings, though I’m sure we all know people who never reciprocate with invitations. But this is the exception rather than the rule. Most people realize that in order to be a guest, you must occasionally host.

This is why when my daughter gingerly approached me and asked if we could have the first pasta party of the season, I said “Sure.”

“Can the boys’ team come?” she asked.

“Sure, why not?” I said. “How many kids are we talking about?”

“Ugh, I don’t know, maybe 30,” she said. “But they probably won’t all come, so don’t worry.”

Gulp.

We didn’t know how many kids were coming until they showed up. It was like Halloween, when cars keep pulling up and the doorbell keeps ringing and you wonder if you’ll run out of candy or have to turn off the porch light. I didn’t have that option, so I began making copious amounts of penne and fettuccine in the largest pasta pot I could find.

As the kids filed in, the Curmudgeon whispered, “I’m probably not eating tonight because you’re going to run out of food.” He managed to eat later that night after returning from his tennis clinic – yea, he bailed out on me after about a half hour – but it was a pretty close call.

When I saw the line for the food snaking out the back door, I asked the kids to take it easy on the first pass through line, noting that there were hungry kids behind them. And then I dug through my freezer, pulling out loaves of frozen garlic bread and throwing them in the oven.

The feeding frenzy didn’t last long, but it was intense. Think seagulls in a McDonald’s parking lot, or swarms of bees on your hummingbird feeders in September. When it was all over, all that remained were a few strands of fettuccine in the serving bowl and some crumbs of bread.

***

I learned hospitality at an early age, watching my mother host virtually every family gathering at our house. With seven kids, my parents found it easier to host family events rather than travel to relatives’ homes. And though my paternal grandmother Rose always pitched in, the bulk of the entertaining duties fell to my mother.

Though she handled her duties with aplomb, Mom had a recurring nightmare that revealed her true feelings: throwing every cabinet open before guests were due to arrive and discovering all her cabinets were bare.

At 85, she’s still having this nightmare. After I told her that I was hosting this party for 40 kids, Mom dreamed that she was hosting Christmas Eve and didn’t have cocktail sauce for her shrimp cocktail. Mom is proof that some nightmares haunt you for life.

Despite her dream, G is a softie when it comes to parties, often offering to host when no one else steps up. Every year, she hosts family picnics for every major holiday and is still in charge of Christmas Eve for 40 people. When we suggest that she might want to pass the baton to someone else, she says, “No, I think I can do it for one more year.”

When I was growing up, G was always willing to host parties at our house and encouraged us to do the same. It began with Christmas cookie decorating parties in our finished basement when I was about nine, and gradually expanded to rollicking pool parties in high school and college.

Today, I still host the occasional party, though I prefer to go out with friends so I can relax and have fun too. And though I’m relieved to have the pasta party behind me, my relief was short-lived.

As I vegged out on the couch like my dog Cali, my son called from college and asked me to organize a tailgate party for his tennis team for players and parents this weekend.

You’ve got to be kidding, I thought.

But this time, it’s the Curmudgeon’s turn to organize it. It’s the least he can for skipping out on the pasta party and leaving me to do it alone.

19 thoughts on “Dog Tired

  1. OMG this is my life. I always was the house that the kids gravitated to for parties. Pasta dinners for the volleyball team, Halo parties for the boys, who thought they could survive on chips and soda ALL DAY LONG! I fed them, it was silly. As far as my husbands family I have hosted more holiday parties in my 38 years married than all of the other 5 brothers and sisters combined. My husband always wants the leftovers so there is that, but I do have a tough time getting them to leave when I want. Being that person who is always counted on to host is not a bad thing, my kids remember it fondly and the memories last longer than the exhaustion.

    Like

  2. Oh I love that you did this pasta party and your description of the kids and the amount of food you prepared– and all of it. I believe in hospitality, but will admit that a few years ago on a significant birthday I declared I was finished having house parties of any sort. I did my bit [socially] and lived to tell. 😳

    Liked by 1 person

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