Don’t guess when it comes to guests; be prepared: Bill Kirby
“Love and marriage, love and marriage. They go together like a horse and carriage.”
– Jimmy Van Heusen
I’m no marriage counselor, just a participant.
But I would suggest that there are few challenges more draining in the “death-do-us-part” contract than hosting a weekend visit involving your spouse’s oldest, but distant friends.
Thank goodness we had four months to prepare. That gave us time to get a new roof, have the house and driveway pressure-washed and essentially fix the lawn. The shrubs now look nice, wrapped in an Argonne Forest of pine straw mulch.
I bought an edger to give a crisp trim to the sidewalk and curb. I put on gloves and a long-sleeve shirt and waded into the rose bushes, trimming out the deadheads with scissors, so that only the pretty blossoms were on display. I filled pots with flowers I knew would probably be dead in two weeks.
Did I mention it’s been warm outside?
When advised, my wife told me to contact the air-conditioner guy we’ve used in recent years to make sure he could help if Freon broke free.
I won’t get into the kitchen prep, except to say it involved fruit trays, vegetable trays, pastry trays, biscuit platters and some juice concoctions requiring mango, which it took two stock boys to find. I also bought enough ice to sink a Titanic.
In addition, the household quartermaster had approved the purchase of a new table cloth, tasteful (yet disposable) cutlery and a good-sized, three-part electric warming tray in case we ever want to go into the wedding reception business.
All that was Part I – to plan it so that everything is not necessarily perfect, but “right” for the guests’ arrival. Then let them mess up the plates or maybe drop a croissant.
That’s because you are now in Part II of your challenge, the execution phase. It’s like a job interview after you’ve already been hired. You have to show your spouse’s friends that the right choice was made.
You do this by quietly maintaining host mode, which means you listen … a lot.
Like the job interview, ask a few questions that get others to talk.
Then let them.
Don’t try to top a story about a disagreement with a sales clerk. Don’t call the roll on your personal health challenges. Make sure you’re a good host. Offer a biscuit from the warming tray, and keep their cups or glasses filled. The minutes will pass; the clock hands will turn. And before the sun sets, you will be standing at the top of the driveway waving as the last car departs.
“That went great,” your spouse will say, leaning into a hug.
And you’ll turn, look warmly, and ask, “Why did we need the mango?”
Bill Kirby has reported, photographed and commented on life in Augusta and Georgia for 45 years.