I write a weekly column called “Neighborberry.”
I'm going to start posting these essays on my blog a few weeks after each one is released. The publishers get first dibs. :)
If you would like to see "Neighborberry" in your local paper/website, please tell the editor to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much!
It is party time (released 7/5/13)
By Kris Kolk
Someone should get the ball rolling and be neighborly. It might as well be you. If you feel your home isn’t presentable enough for company, try these tips.
“Do I get the grand tour?” a guest might inquire upon arriving. If such a notion gives you twitches, just lie. You may want to rehearse your lines before the party.
“I would love to show you the bedroom, but my boa constrictors, Wilma and Leon, don’t fancy strangers,” you could say. Practice making sweeping motions with your arms to shepherd the nosy one into what you term “the safe part of the house.”
Perhaps you have a bathtub full of something you don’t want others to see, such as dirty dishes or Donny and Marie fan club memorabilia. Just dump those unmentionables into laundry baskets. Shove the baskets in the bedroom with Wilma and Leon. Define this as “organization” and feel good about the day.
Before hosting a party, my grandmother would wash, line-dry and iron her kitchen curtains. As a new bride, I caught myself doing the same thing. Grandma and I shared a chuckle about it. Nowadays, I just smack the top-layer dust out of the curtains with a dishrag.
Has paint peeled and left a 4-foot by 3-foot patch in the shape of The Ukraine on your living room wall? Cover it with construction paper and have the kids draw on it. Tell your guests it would break your heart to remove this precious artwork.
It astounded me to hear that other people clean a few days in advance of a party. When my kids were young, I would tidy all day; but it always looked like a giant had been shaking our home as if it were a doll house. Pillows and blankets would appear in front of the television. Measuring cups and mixing bowls would be discovered in the baby’s room. Miniature fighter jets would wage wars in my underwear drawer. Though I am not a fan of “ahead of time,” some chores, such as cleaning the refrigerator, are best tackled prior to a gathering.
“Here. I brought you this 36-inch chocolate chip cheesecake,” your friend offers. “You might want to stick it in the fridge until we’re ready for dessert.” It is such a bittersweet moment when a guest contributes something chilled and decadent but also bigger than your pool.
Another help is to put away all the everyday dishes before the get-together. Clean. Dirty. Clean. Dirty. It’s the dishwasher circle of life. But when a party is afoot, an empty dishwasher can save your sanity.
After Thanksgiving dinner at my home, the dishwasher was busy washing sippy cups and cereal bowls. In the meantime, cranberry relish and turkey gravy hardened on 45 stuck-together plates. As pie was served, Grandpa tried to trade his great-granddaughter a cigarette for her clean fork.
Here’s another do-ahead tip: clean in and around your furniture. Just as soon as a guest gets out a pacifier for the baby, she drops it somewhere deep, dark and scary: under the cushions.
“Let’s move the furniture and look!” a booming voice proclaims while the baby shrieks. You witness in horror four men and an eight-year-old boy lift your couch. Unveiled is a well-established, thriving eco-system of dead and undead bugs, broken crayons, loner socks, fuzzy potato chips—and one pacifier. The scene is so ghastly, the baby stops crying. Her mouth falls agape.
Everyone has areas of their home in need of cleaning or renovation. So what? Confront these insecurities with a sense of humor and dedication to the neighborly crusade. You have the right to share life with friends and family in your own home!
Now, all that’s left to do is poop-scoop the front yard and turn on the one porch light that still works. Be neighborly. Not perfect.
Kris Kolk has been a writer and neighborliness promoter for more than a decade. You can also visit her at www.neighborsabouttown.blogspot.com. Email her at email@example.com.