I’ve thought about my mom often in the past few weeks. Not because it was her birthday or the anniversary of her death, but because of happenings. I was expressing my inner Maggie by welcoming people into my home. Hosting. Cooking. Sharing love through food. It’s what she most loved, and thankfully, I caught it from her.
My childhood home would be called a bed and breakfast today. Except it wasn’t a money-making operation and we served much more than breakfast. Maggie was the queen of hospitality. Entertaining was her calling. Her purpose. It was as if our dining table self-expanded and delicious, love-inspired food magically appeared for our endless list of invitees. Having company for “Sunday dinner” was a given, and I loved it.
I loved to help set the table and was fascinated by the tiny, intricate roses on my mom’s silver. I knew where the knife, fork, and spoon belonged in a place setting before I knew how to read. We were never allowed–even if it was just our family–to put a jar of jam, a condiment, or bag of chips on the table. Everything had to be in a container. Watching her, I learned the value of presentation, a rhythm for planning, how to balance a meal, and consideration for the experience of one’s guests. Maggie knew how to make it happen and was eager to teach. I once got a booklet on napkin folding in my Christmas stocking.
It came to my attention recently that for some, hosting friends in their home is more of a stressor than a source of joy. And yes, it is still a jolt when I realize others don’t think like me.
Maybe I don’t stress because it’s the experience I attempt to emulate rather than my mom’s style. I don’t prepare a meat, five sides, home-made crescent rolls, and coconut cream pie–all served family style. I might fix a taco bar or a pot of lentil soup and cornbread–served buffet style. Dessert is a dish of Breyer’s vanilla ice cream with blueberries and pistachios or a chunk of dark chocolate with almonds and another glass of red wine.
I’m probably going to use plates that go in the dishwasher and paper napkins–folded, of course. I’ll run out and clip a few roses from the back yard and put them in a pretty vase. I might have to call one of my guests and ask them to pick up the ice cream, but if I reach my goal, people will drop their shoes at the door and sit around my table talking, laughing, sipping. Comfortable. Present over perfect.
Maggie taught me to make pies, which I never do, but more importantly, she taught me to open my home and have fun while I’m at it. To invite people to join around my table. To share my bounty. To make people feel welcome and nourished and loved. And when I’m able to do that, I feel happy. And I feel extremely grateful for Maggie.