"Should we invite my folks for Thanksgiving?" I got out of my chair and headed for the phone, pausing a moment for Mike’s reply.
"Why not? But you know they’ll have to check with Norm first."
I dialed their number. My mother answered.
"Hi, we’re wondering if you and Dad would like to come here for Thanksgiving dinner this year."
"Oh, that would be nice." Her response was pleasant. "But we’ll have to find out what the kids are doing first."
Of course. The kids. That would be my younger brother and his two daughters—always a better offer no matter how late it came. Since my brother’s divorce a couple of years ago, this had been Mom’s standard reply to our invitations. I understood how a day with their grandchildren would take favor over any invitation of ours, but the phrase still struck me as insulting.
I swallowed my hurt, knowing that I’d forgive her. Why did I keep trying? Especially since it meant long hours of preparation and clean up in addition to working the day before and the day after. "Okay then. Well, please let me know soon, so I can order the turkey."
"Okay. I’ll call Norm next week and find out."
I thanked her and our conversation ended.
My yearning to share the season with some people, any people, hung heavy on me. Then an idea crossed my mind. "Let’s have a Christmas party." I eyeballed Mike. "Here!"
"Who would come?" He lowered the newspaper to his lap.
"I don’t know..." My brain sped through its recollection of family and friends and immediately dismissed them all, fearing the chance of insulting those we chose not to invite. Then it came to me. "How about asking some of our coworkers and their significant others?"
"Yeah. Okay. That sounds good."
I pulled a pencil, notepad and calendar from the fold-up desk in the dining room and sat on the fireplace hearth next to Mike’s chair. We selected the Saturday two weeks before Christmas, then listed names for each of us to invite, which we did the next day.
When my mother phoned that week with an offer to bring our turkey and spend Thanksgiving with them and the kids, I politely refused. Instead, we enjoyed a quiet dinner for two at a local restaurant.
In the first weeks of December, I spent evenings and weekends planning, decorating and baking for our planned party, including the time-intensive programming of four hours of seasonal music on our reel-to- reel tape recorder. Mike decorated our Christmas tree to perfection while I placed poinsettias next to the wall on every single red-carpeted stair that led from the living area to the tile entry below.
Soon the targeted evening was at hand. Our dining room table was bedecked to capacity with seasonal decorations and foods like sliced ham, Swedish meatballs, deviled eggs, potato salad, rolls, breads, crackers and such right down to pickles and olives. An array of Scandinavian and traditional holiday cookies sat next to a crystal bowl of red punch.
I made a final check of the preparations—the dining room table, resplendent with its foods and decorations, small flames lapping at the logs in the living room fireplace, the picture-perfect tree and flower-decked stairs. I started the four-hour tape of background music and scanned the scene again—our home had never looked so good.
Within minutes the door bell rang. It was one of the office girls from my work and her husband. I directed them up the stairs where Mike introduced himself and put their coats in the guest closet. A second ring of the bell brought another coworker and her husband. I dipped a cup of punch for each of us to enjoy while we waited for more party goers.
An hour later it was clear to me that these four folks were the only people coming to our party. We ate, we visited. Mike led the men down to his hobby room in back of the garage to talk guns—whether they wanted to or not. The girls spied my accordion in a corner of the living room and pressured me into strapping it on for a holiday sing-along.
Two songs later I was comfortable enough to hit the master switches for a resounding rendition of the Beer Barrel Polka. Within a few notes, one of the gals began to polka herself around the living room, then twirled down and back the long hallway that led to the bedrooms, nearly falling over sideways when she and the music stopped. We laughed.
The impromptu entertainment over, the men returned upstairs. Next thing I knew, our guests were sliding into their coats and offering good byes and thank-yous at our front door. The party was over. Mike retired to the bedroom to watch television, and I cleared the table, put the food away and started the dishwasher. Realizing how I’d worn myself out preparing for it, I vowed to never do it again.
We welcomed the new year in quiet repose while snacking on left-over Christmas party goodies and enjoying television broadcasts of fireworks and celebrations around the world. They kept us awake for the familiar year-end tunes from Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians band.