The open-door policy gets my vote

imagesBV3K17DTBy Lisa Sugarman

When I was a kid, we pretty much had an open-door policy in my house. As an only child, I think my mom was hyper aware of how important it was for me to make strong bonds with friends because I had no brothers or sisters around to torment, uh, I mean, keep me company. So from as far back as I can remember, our front door was wide open and there were always at least few extra pairs of Tretorns in the front hall.

Let’s put it this way, all my friends knew exactly which shelf the Miracle Whip was on in my fridge and where our spare key was hidden under the porch. (Not that we hide a key under the porch now. I mean, exactly how stupid do you think I am?) In other words, I guess you could say that growing up, my house was like a second home for a lot of people.

My mom hosted just about every major holiday and special occasion you could find on a calendar. And some I think she just made up for the helluvit. Point being, I always had the sense back then that our house was the epicenter of the world. And I loved it. There was nothing like that feeling of having your friends call your mother Mom. It meant they loved being there. And that was a beautiful feeling.

Now I imagine my mom had a revolving-door philosophy because that was how she and my aunt and uncles were raised. But I’m sure part of it, too, was to overcompensate for the fact that I had no siblings. Either way it was fine with me because my house was always so jam-packed with people that I never felt alone. Not for a minute. Because even then, as a self-centered teenager—yeah, I admit it—I consciously recognized and appreciated always having people around. And that’s because it made the house feel alive with energy. And that was an infectious feeling.

It really seemed to me, in those days, like our oven was indefinitely preheated and ready to roll at a steady 350 degrees for whatever pans of Toll House cookies might come sliding in. My mom was either baking or cooking or shopping. The way I remember it, she was always either on her way to, or from, the market. I often wondered when she actually slept. And it wasn’t until years later, when I had my own kids, that I realized she didn’t. No mom does.

Look, food and people equals love. Plain and simple. And my mother knew that. So we were always fully stocked with both. I think it’s fair to assume that a good majority of everyone’s happy memories somehow, in some way, involve food or people or both. Birthdays have cake, Thanksgiving has turkey, Easter has ham, the Fourth of July has beer. The list could go on for miles. The one common denominator being food. And the people to eat it.

See, it wasn’t until I had kids of my own that I fully realized what kind of an impact it had on me watching my mother host everything. All those memories of everyone always getting together under our roof left a serious mark on me. That one penchant she had for opening our house up to everyone had a direct and powerful influence on how I’ve raised my own kids. And my mother-in-law was the same way, so it’s all Dave and I have ever really known. And so, consequently, it’s all our kids have ever known.

I will say, though, that it wasn’t until I was a parent, with my own debit card and overdraft protection, that I realize that my mother must’ve either secretly won the lottery or been hooking on the side to have afforded to feed all those people. Obviously I’m joking. Please. She never won the lottery.

Really, though, I’ll never dispute how much time and effort goes into opening your house up, especially to your kid’s friends. But the return you get on that is, actually, like winning the lottery. For real.

I don’t think any of us would trade the slave labor it takes to cook one hundred meatballs, four gallons of red sauce, ten pounds of pasta, ten loaves of garlic bread, thirteen dozen brownies, and a builder’s acre-worth of Caesar salad just to have the cross country team over for a quick bite. It’s a haul, for sure. But any of us who’ve hosted a team dinner or Thanksgiving or birthday parties or playgroups knows that the joy it gives our kids far outweighs the bursitis we get from carrying eight grocery bags at a time in from the car.

Ok, well, it’s almost worth it anyway.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on


2 thoughts on “The open-door policy gets my vote

  1. I’m very pleased to announce that the October 2014 issue of our online book review magazine “California Bookwatch” features a review of “Life: It Is What It Is”.

    Here is the review:

    California Bookwatch: October 2014
    James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
    Diane C. Donovan, Editor
    Midwest Book Review
    278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575

    Reviewer’s Choice

    Life: It Is What It Is
    Lisa Sugarman
    4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
    978149479130, $16.49,

    Life: It Is What It Is comes from the long-time columnist for GateHouse Media, and considers the importance of accepting imperfection and controlling how we react to life. It comes from an author and columnist who offers a collection of her columns that analyze what life is and how to understand and accept its unpredictability, and it creates a lively dialogue of the ups and downs of living that will resonate with quite a wide audience. If it’s an involving survey about life and its processes that is desired, Lisa Sugarman holds the key to an excellent presentation with much food for thought.

    You have complete permission to utilize the review in any manner you deem useful for marketing and promotion.

    Additionally, this review will be archived on our Midwest Book Review website for the next five years at

    Please send an email notification to my attention at for your future titles as they are published and become available to the reading public.

    Incidentally, although our bylaws prohibit accepting money from authors or publishers (in order to avoid any conflict of interest issues), we did amend it to allow authors and publishers who wanted to make a gesture of support and appreciation for what we try to do here at the Midwest Book Review in behalf of the small press community to donate postage stamps “for the cause”. So if you’d like to send a check or money order as a donation to our Midwest Book Review postage stamp fund, please feel free (but not obligated!).

    I look forward to your next new title.

    James A. Cox
    Midwest Book Review
    278 Orchard Drive
    Oregon, WI, 53575

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