Why I’m Hosting a Crappy Dinner Party This Holiday Season

Laura is one of my oldest friends. I’ve known her for as long as I can remember. We’ve both moved around a lot but now we find ourselves living in the same city, both mothers to boys of similar ages. It only makes sense that we would see each other often – except we didn’t.

I love having friends over, but with three kids, big writing dreams, and the never ending onslaught of preparing and cleaning up from breakfast/snack/lunch/snack/dinner/snack/snack/snack, having a friend over for a meal started to feel too much like work and less like the break I craved. I am not a neat freak or perfectionist by any stretch, but having company came to mean clearing a path in the explosion of crafts and creations on our floor, folding the mountain of laundry on the couch and finding the source of that questionable smell. I started to feel grumpy when preparing for a visitor, snapping at my kids to pick up their underwear and wipe the toilet seat, for crying out loud. In one part of my brain I knew that this reaction was ridiculous: my friends were coming to see me, not my home. Laura is a mom too and would completely understand the scribble marks on my hardwood and my 9 year old’s unmade bed. But the other part of my brain said that pride in ownership is a healthy thing and germs are not.

Then Laura went away, to a small community in northern Saskatchewan. When she returned two years later she told me how friends there just show up at each other’s houses, unannounced. People feed each other whatever happens to be in their fridge that day. There’s no preparation, no stress – just pure enjoyment. “Let’s try it,” she suggested. We made plans for our first crappy dinner. But because we are from southern Ontario we needed to make rules:

Crappy Dinner Rule 1. No housework is to be done prior to a guest’s arrival

Crappy Dinner Rule 2. The menu must be simple and not involve a special grocery shop

Crappy Dinner Rule 3. You must wear whatever you happen to have on

Crappy Dinner Rule 4. No hostess gifts allowed

Crappy Dinner Rule 5 (optional). You must act like you’re surprised when your friend and her family just happen to show up at your door.

Reading over the rules, my husband told me I couldn’t do it. “You’ll be cleaning and chopping frantically at the last minute,” he said. I vowed I wouldn’t. Laura and I set a date.

Minutes before the first crappy dinner at our house my 7-year-old son trudged through the house in his muddy shoes.

“I’m so cool with that,” I said to my husband. He laughed.

My 9-year-old announced she was going to begin a messy, gluey, paint filled project on the living room floor.

“No probs,” I said, sipping a glass of wine.

Kelley Powell
Kelley Powellhttp://www.kelleypowell.com
Kelley Powell is the author of The Merit Birds, an Amazon.ca bestseller currently on Booklist's top 10 Multicultural Fiction for Youth. You can find more of her work at www.kelleypowell.com

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