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.
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.