Hostess With the Mostest

It’s a lot of ruckus to host guests, since my usual preferred activities these days are on the quieter contemplative side. My siblings left last week, and more guests arrive next week. I do love having guests, but I’ve been more nervous about it lately. It’s either the pandemic or aging, or both, making me less flexible, or less tolerant of change and chaos. Socializing, it seems, has become like practicing an instrument; something I need to keep working on to get better at it.

When we married, my mother-in-law made sure we had a double set of silverware because there were always so many extra folks at our table. Alan was always bringing home a dear friend or three, or a drifter he met. During our first several years in Portland we had scores of visitors. With no local friends, importing them worked well. There was chaos then quiet, fun then contemplation, busy-ness then stillness. I rolled easily with it and looked forward to the next round. Now it seems, I’m a little rusty.

I read in the AARP magazine (yes, geezerhood) that the lockdown wasn’t as challenging for many retirees as it was for other people; we’re used to a slower pace, and more practiced at rolling with the punches over a long lifetime. Of course the world was a sad chaotic place, and there were plenty of stressful and lonely times, but in terms of adjusting to the quiet, it suited me.

So reentry continues to challenge me. For three years my coping mechanism has been to stay as safe as I can and it’s a lot of effort to shake that off. Once intimacy is on the menu, I try to embrace the moment. When masks are off, I focus on letting go and staying present, rather than second guessing everything. Once I’ve decided to be close to people I’d rather enjoy than fret. This works pretty well, though the anticipation is still a bit wobbly.

I like taking care of guests, providing food, entertainment, comfort, whatever they came to Portland for. I like it when they tell me they slept well, that the meal was good, that the outing was fun. I enjoy it too and enjoy the break from routine. On the down side, I tend to eat things I don’t usually eat – richer, sweeter, harder on my body. I skip my healthy habits – morning stretches, swimming, writing, and of course most chores are the first thing to go.

Then once everyone leaves I enjoy putting the house back in order, contemplating our time together, the conversations, and activities. I’m happy to get back to my familiars. I covet my solitude, the peace of my own thoughts, the predictability and comfort of my habits, doing what I want without considering others, feeling centered. Clearly, I’m both an introvert and I’m getting older. There’s no fighting reality.

But it’s a seesaw. Too much of one and I’m in need of the other. I welcome everyone in, then close up the drawbridge. The trick is staying aware of my needs, and not getting off kilter. 

We’re getting back into the hosting business. Celebrating Passover with some of my siblings felt like old times. Next week two lovely friends arrive – who I’ve only met online. That means I know very little about them, their likes, habits and preferred activities. Yikes! It’s a little strange. But I had a nice conversation with them about what we each want from our visit, and I’m calming down. 

Here’s some pics of my family visit: visiting the Japanese Garden with a new art exhibit, the cherry blossoms on the waterfront in the rain, and celebrating Passover. Too fast for photos: the afikomen search included a bait and switch operation, a word search puzzle, a jigsaw puzzle, scattered clues unlocking a padlock lock, a seer who sensed the location bag where the matzah was locked inside, and it was only slightly battered by the end.

 We also visited our newly discovered BBQ joint, played cribbage, talked, cooked, and ate – a lot. But dang, there’s uneaten ice cream in the freezer that we didn’t have room for – I’ll need to invite more visitors! Our doors are open now, and I think we still have our 5 star rating.

“There is no doubt that solitude is a challenge and to maintain balance within it a precarious business. But I must not forget that, for me, being with people or even with one beloved person for any length of time without solitude is even worse. I lose my center. I feel dispersed, scattered, in pieces. I must have time alone in which to mull over any encounter, and to extract its juice, its essence, to understand what has really happened to me as a consequence of it.”

May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

14 thoughts on “Hostess With the Mostest

  1. We are one. Except you are doing it, I am not—at least not in my home. Last night, after a really off-kilter week, looking forward to my Saturday pizza with a movie on the sofa night, my phone reminded me I had a dinner date. In thirty minutes. Twenty-five miles away. Oops. Thank you for the reminder that it’s not a bad thing to exercise that entertaining muscle. Still . . . I am all about May Sarton, whose book enlightened me decades ago that it wasn’t just me.

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  2. Looks like a fun few days. Gorgeous photos. I love that you write about the “whole” of the experience. I am envious that you have the space and means and will to entertain. Our home is quite small and cozy and more sanctuary than gathering spot. Like you, I recognize the fact that I am an introvert and aging. I don’t try so hard to fit where I don’t belong anymore but I love that there are books like May’s and people like you and G that I can bounce things off of and sit with in the quiet. Thanks for your always authentic sharing 💕

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    • We chose this house specifically because it would work as a family gathering place and a musical gathering place. Every time we host one of those gatherings Alan and I just nod our heads at each other – we did it right. I do wish I had a small and cozy sanctuary retreat nearby though!! 🙂 And yes, so happy to have other introverts to share these thoughts. Thanks BR.

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  3. Nancy, your writing and your photographs are so refreshing. I identify with the puzzle of being with others and needing space. What an amazing art exhibit! Such joy!

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  4. Thank you for sharing Nancy. Your writing makes me want to visit again! This summer I hope. In between our two weekends per year where we share so much, it is wonderful to immerse myself in your Portland world for a few minutes. But I miss you both! You are a wonderful hosts. See you soon I hope!

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  5. totally get it. Love being with the people, love it when they leave, and of course all the anxiety before they get there etc etc. So awesome how you and the 2 friends had a talk first about what you wanted from visit. That is full pull honesty and the BEST. You really are an amazing hostess but that is because YOU ARE AN AMAZING PERSONNNNNNNNNNN love you xoxox


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