Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Would you?

The other day I had a conversation with a friend whom I admire very much for her strength and grace. She also tops my list of brave hostesses this week for staring down a dinner party in her own home for forty on two weeks notice and never flinching. Did I mention that she too has a brand new baby and a two year old running around, just like yours truly? And that the guest list is entirely people who work for her Husband? That she intends to cook it herself? Yes, so you can believe that when she related this endeavor to me I had to go home and take a long snooze.

It is the perfect storm: Little time to gather your thoughts, two people who mean to keep you from gathering them, forty guests likely to judge more than others, and dinner. It is all one can do not to crawl under the table with their magnum and pray for an intervention of fate.0

When she mentioned this event, I quickly volunteered to help with whatever she needed. I could watch the children, help with the dinner service, make drinks, or answer the door. When I said that, I think she was surprised or did not know how to receive the offer of help. (Now, I will grant you, this blog is 376 reasons why one might not want me at a party - but really, I am very fun and only write about your party when you have told me I could. Really.).

(On another note, I love the fact that hostesses have returned business dinners to their homes instead of restaurant dining rooms. I will do whatever I can to help and advance the return of this practice. But I digress. )

With regard to lending a hand, I come from a land of thoughtful, capable hostesses who will never allow you to fall. They would sooner leap from the turret with the canape tray than allow you to be harried or not enjoy your own party. Remember Dori helping with the food in the kitchen at the Christmas cocktail party for seventy-five? What would I have done had a hostess of similar training not been in the trenches that day?

Same goes for my beautiful friend Jennifer, remember her lovely hunt country Christmas party?

I think often of the long days my Godmother, Margaret, has put in helping my Mother and I with charity luncheons and all manner of parties at home. She and her mighty group of four sisters are the best mix of careful, direct, ballerina-like hostesses. There is not chatter about what needs to be done, just hands and skirts moving around the house in the long-ago learned dance of their fore-hostesses. Perfectionists, but gently so.

So, yes, I will help. I will get my hands dirty. I will park cars. I will wear a lovely but innocuous outfit and do what needed done without socializing. Because I am a friend and this is about the success of an undertaking of a valued person in my world and what it means to her family professionally. We are all in this together, and in some professions, entertaining contributes heavily to survival.

Have you stepped from the spotlight to help? Please share with us.

*A quick tip regarding entertaining employees: When you entertain for people who report to you, all things are instructive. For this reason, it is critical to set good examples right down to the choice of food. It needs to be clean, fresh and healthy as a nod to how you care for these people and their welfare. Also, take care not to be pretentious, it may cause discord later. But be certain you serve and treat them like honored guests: they take very good care of you and your livelihood and you should take every opportunity to do the same.


little augury said...

I am so lucky to have found your blog and to be reminded daily of the word grace. Another spot on post- funny too. I have so many things that come to mind- My own offers to help,the wedding of a friends daughter and again- her mother's wake. Passages- all of these and yes- parties in the sense. It seems to be a natural thing to Offer my services.The same can be said of the people that come to help me. All capable hands and always knowledgeable. They KNOW what to do. You must just trust them when the time comes and if you know them well- You know they will always get it right. Thought provoking post- Blushing. la

susan said...

I think in the south helping out comes naturally. "kitchen duty" is reserved for only the closest friends and considered a place of honor! I had an impromptu dinner for 16 on Friday (24 hr. notice) and it turned out beautifully--not time to fuss and worry :)

Gwennie said...

I am always the go to person when people need help for a party. I have given dozens of parties, and they trust me to know what to do. My friend wanted to give a shower, but in her small apartment it wouldn't have worked, so she threw it at my home. We set up the tables, made all the food, and she greeted her guests and entertained, while I sat in the kitchen, reading a book, while the party went on. I served and cleared as needed, but stayed out of the way otherwise. Beth was thrilled with the outcome and I loved helping out a friend.

Debra said...

What a great post-I want to print it to save. I'm my own worst enemy when entertaining new friends. I challenge myself for perfection-often over-tired by the evening of the event! I do enjoy being there to help others-serving, greeting whatever they may need. I do need to work on this, because the end result is fun when you can relax.

LPC said...

40 people. That's some lot of people. You ain't stirfrying for 40 people...That kind of an affair requires thought, planning, correct expectations, and correct execution. Not to mention help.

Teacats said...

Another one here to don an apron and help out! In fact -- as soon as I arrive I do ask if there is anyway I can help? I've even cleaned when a sudden flurry of friends arrived at another gal's door. I scooted around, tidied and touched up the house whilst she slowly brought them into the house! LOL! Then I dashed out back, cut some flowers and casually arranged them as if I had been doing that all the while! Drinks served, nibbled arranged -- and a pleasant hour or two managed! Have apron -- will travel!

Jan at Rosemary Cottage

Rona's Home Page said...

My husband and I hosted an outdoor picnic for 20. We love doing this and work together as a team with our teen.

Bonjour Madame said...

Ok, just from quickly perusing a few posts I can tell I will be coming back a lot for hostess tips. I love a party and love having them but I get high anxiety over it and I need to learn to enjoy it more. I see you are from a part of the country that is serious about hospitality. I am from a similar region and to top that off, pretty much everyone is a really good cook so your food has to be delicious too!

I'm going to put you on my side bar so I don't miss anything.