Several years ago, when my oldest son was a baby and we lived in Hawaii, I spent most of my free time drooling over the photographs in Martha Stewart Living. I knew once we moved back to the mainland, I would entertain people in a way that would make Martha proud.
When we got back, I got to work. I gathered pieces for baking and serving as I went along: cake pedestals, cookie cutters, a kitchen torch. As we hosted small dinner parties, I soon realized how expensive it was, and soon after that started to wonder what all the fuss was about. Though I loved trying to create something lovely, I knew most of my friends didn’t really care what I did; they just wanted to get together. Eventually, I was asking myself why I needed to impress anyone.
It’ll take a few hours of therapy to get to the bottom of that question. But I did come to one solution: I stopped worrying about entertaining friends and decided to turn to my own family and create something beautiful for them.
Sometimes it was dinner for two: fillet mignon with matchstick fries and shallot sauce. Other times it was something the kids would love on a snow day, like hot chocolate affogati. I liked to find ways to celebrate and show the people around me that I loved them.
In my head, of course, was this vision of once a week having the whole family dress for dinner and eating with the best china and silver. But I haven’t gotten around to that yet. If I ever get nice china and silver, I’ll let you know how that turns out.
Anyway, you know my story. Somewhere between the fillet mignon and the chocolate affogati, my marriage went to poop.
And things are still spinning around here. Sometimes I feel like everything is fine and forget for a few moments that someone in this world hates my guts, and other times I remember that fact and want to go to every matinee of Avatar and drown my sorrows in a huge bag of Almond Joy Pieces (Have you tried these yet? They’re like M&Ms with coconut in them. Sorry, Connie. Not for you).
While I wait for things to settle out, I have decided to get on with my dreams. I will be making a beautiful life for my family anyway. For we have plenty to celebrate.
Last week, we celebrated the end of winter. After school, we piled some chicken hand pies into a tin bread box, and stuffed a hot brick wrapped in kitchen towels beside them to keep them warm. My four-year-old brought out a tiny lunch box, which we filled with raspberry jam bars. Then we raced to the mountains and arrived just as the sun hid itself behind the western peaks at Sundance Resort.
While freezing our little fingers off, I said in tones of strained patience things like: “Mommy needs pictures of you—no don’t make that face” or “The sooner I take these pictures, the sooner we can go get warm” and “That’s funny, but please try to look more natural.”
When our picnic by the fire was over, we went inside to order hot chocolate—wicked expensive hot chocolate. (I’m from Boston, so I am actually authorized to use “wicked” as an intensifier every now and then. Sundance, by the way, always hosts some celebrity or another. Apparently these are the people who can regularly afford wicked expensive hot chocolate. On this trip, it was Wayne Brady, in case you were dying to know). While inside, we got warm, took more pictures, and celebrated being together.
This new chapter in our lives is not what I planned all those years ago, while reading my magazines in a tiny apartment in Kona, but it is so much better, because I am entertaining my own family. I know now, more than ever before, why that is a perfect reason to celebrate.