A few weeks ago, I threw out the idea of a holiday open house to my husband. As is typical of these endeavors, I had the idea all worked out in my mind well in advance of even broaching the topic as an off-handed thought. I knew exactly how we could make it work, when we would do it, who we would invite…this would be a terrific opportunity to see the friends that we love and that we don’t get to see often enough. What came out to my husband though was, “What do you think about us having a little holiday party?” He agreed, which was an important part of my manipulative plan, and then a few days ago after I had planned every thing out I informed him that our guest list was at 87. His response: “Do not tell me this. I don’t want to know.”
I knew things would work out. We’d planned on an all-day open house; people could start arriving around 11:00 am and we’d welcome people until 6:00 pm. We’d provide the beverages, and we asked our guests to bring some food to share. By this morning, the guest list had exploded to nearly one hundred guests, including approximately 40 kids. My husband’s blood pressure skyrocketed, but I had worked out all my stresses the day before.
When we went to pick out a Christmas Tree at a local farm yesterday, I spent the entire time miffed at our son who was wearing sweat pants with huge rips in the knees, something I hadn’t noticed until we got in the car. When we got home, I screamed at the kids until they started cleaning their rooms and my husband relegated himself to the out of doors prepping the tree for entry. Soon after, we got the tree inside, fed the kids lunch, and bedded down for our weekend nap time. After nap, the kids bounced out of bed with the excitement of decorating the tree, and we spent the evening putting on ornaments, each of which hold a special place in our hearts. Some are from my husband’s departed grandmother, others from his estranged mother, and more from my mother who died a few years ago. As we placed the Santa on the top of the tree that was a pinnacle of my mother’s annual beauty of a Christmas Tree, I blinked back tears in my eye as the entire family shrieked with glee.
Then the tree started tipping over. Some fancy footwork and a cat-like reflexes kept us from losing more than a few ornaments, and my husband went to work righting a very strangely grown tree. Several curse words and headaches later, the tree looked beautiful again.
This morning, we woke early to prep the house. The kids helped as best they could while my husband set to work cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen. I whipped up some a fancy Bloody Mary recipe, bathed the children, dressed them in their Christmas finery, and we were ready to receive our first guests.
The first friend to arrive was one we hadn’t seen in quite some time, over a year, and we were so glad to have her over. A woman of color who lives and works in our town, we had a lot to catch up on. Since she arrived shortly after 11:00 am, we were alone with her while our kids played upstairs for almost an hour. It was so great to catch up with her and share some of our similar experiences raising kids of color in this white suburb. At this point, I knew it was going to be a great day of reconnecting with old friends and deepening new friendships, something we virtually never get to do in our current life.
Then a steady trickle of friends showed up, and the morning hours peaked a little after noon with several dozen people in our home. My husband and I looked around and noticed a fairly diverse population. My husband, who has just completed a course in racial identity development, felt like a proud white ally as he made a point of spending time chatting with some of the people who might feel marginalized in this environment, like the Asian family who just moved in down the street or the family of a Muslim woman I befriended in a professional development course this summer. Then the bi-racial families started arriving, and we were convinced this is about as diverse as this suburban town gets for a holiday gathering.
I’m not sure our kids noticed the various colors present at our party. They had a great time playing with their friends (our son’s bed took quite a hit when one of the more rambunctious boys took to jumping on it with a splintering creak and our daughter who is normally starved for estrogen in her family relished in creating a “girl’s only” zone in her room). At some point though, I think they’ll be able to stop, take a look around at our circle of friends, and find safety and comfort in the diversity that reflects the make up of our own family.
Today was a marathon of enthusiastic hosting, and my feet are killing me. And it was all worth it.