Last week we hosted our annual family week at the lake. Seventeen people in one lake house for eight days. This was our fifth year of family week, and it is fantastic and exhausting in all the ways you might imagine.
Now, let me just clarify what I mean by “hosting.” I do not cook and clean and serve mojitos every minute. I tried that, the first few years. I took on way too much. I tried to control every meal, I went to the grocery store every single day. Inevitably, I had a mini-breakdown about four days in. It’s not feasible for one person to take all of that on. What’s more, no one expected it from me.
But I was confused and thought I had something to prove. I wanted to be lauded for my hostessing skills. I wanted to be the woman who could whip up a batch of thisandsuch while looking hot in my swimsuit with time to read smart books and frolic in the sand with my well-adjusted children.
I still sort of aspire to that.
But it’s just not my reality. In those early years, I was either pregnant or had a tiny baby or was pregnant again. I was just learning how to cook. I was still relatively new to that side of the family. There were many factors that made my vision of a perfect hostess unattainable.
Each year I’ve learned a different lesson and adjusted for the next summer. Now each family takes a turn cooking a big dinner for everyone. Now we have a running list of things needed from the store and whoever goes into town will pick it up. Now I don’t fret about lunch in general; there is always sandwich stuff or various piecemeal options in the fridge.
I’m summing up years of “letting go.” I used to be a lot more territorial, but it’s hard to ask for or accept help if you’re unwilling to loosen the reins. We entertain so much that I didn’t like spending the precious time we had with family and friends being stressed out.
Lest you think I have achieved some kind of hostess zen, know that I am far from it. I've shed a tear or two this summer. I've coped by consuming excessive amounts of chocolate. But this year it rained every single day of family week, and we managed to laugh through it. And I’m pretty sure that most people ate most meals, and someone washed the towels and everyone knows where to put what where when the dishwasher is unloaded. We played twister and charades and escaped to the boat whenever there was the briefest moment of sun.
Maybe in a few years when my toddler isn’t waking multiple times a night and I’ve perfected a few more recipes, I’ll be the hostess of my dreams. But this year, I’ll take my six weeks of houseguests and show them where we keep the coffee and the snacks and tell them to make themselves at home. And I’ll mean it.
PS - I recently told this story about the nutter butters. Something important for me to remember during the sometimes pressured days of summer.