I love having people in my home, I do. I love it. I like to feel like I have done something to make someone's day, evening, week a little better. Easier.
The threat of hosting worries me, though. It might be a casualty of a southern upbringing - exposure to so many people who do it so effortlessly: putting out scones for morning playdates, throwing together bowls of the right nuts and pretty plates with fruit and cheeses for impromtu afternoon in-home meetings - homes seemingly always ready for a guest.
I love visiting her - in all her incarnations - the friend and acquaintance who does that so well. I am not her.
Mine is a home that needs to be made ready. If we relied upon spontaneous snack, guests would be treating themselves to the last capers from a jar bought last June, the last wrapped package of Trefoils from the confused Girl Scout cookie order (someone never got their Trefoils. They weren't ours... maybe they were yours?), shredded Mexican cheese bought in bulk, the last sad apple in the bowl. These are things not made better, even if put on the Just Right plate (that I don't own).
There are papers on the counter, papers on the floor, and games peeking out from under the couch. A Lego tower was started and abandoned - saved days ago from certain doom by cries of "pleeeease, Mama? I'm still working on it!" The blinds are crooked and the marshmallow-shooting gun sits under the lamp whose bulb has been out for a week. I haven't checked, but I feel certain there is no hand towel hanging in the guest bathroom.
There is much to be done before I host.
My sister hosts grand dinners - with name plates and courses, and always a complicated ethnic dish serving as a nod to places recently travelled or guests too far from home. A Miss Manners devotee, she thinks of each guest - their backgrounds and their interests - and seats them accordingly, never beside their spousal equivalents. While I love attending such affairs, I will carry on as long as is reasonable avoiding acting as hostess to the same.
I love being a guest, though. "Can I warm up your coffee?" and "can I freshen your cocktail?" may be my favorite uniquely-southern, uniquely host-delivered questions to bookend a day. I like the little soaps, someone else's fluffy towels, and interrupting - for a night - the other's routines.
It's that season now: November and December upon us, with all their chances to host and be hosted - the happy stress of putting on a little sparkle and finding the right music. When I bake cookies, or set up the bar, or prepare a basket of towels, I will remember that each action is a prayer of gratitude - that I am lucky to have family in my world I want sleeping under my roof, that I have friends my children think are family, and that everyone enjoys a cup of coffee made by someone else, "warmed up" when there is only a single drop left.
By the time my first guests arrive, I feel certain we will have changed the light bulbs.