‘Tis the Season

Hopefully I’m not alone when it comes to having mixed feelings about Christmas parties. My first glance at the table of hors d’ouevres will tip me off as to what type of evening it will be. If there are plates of celery and carrot sticks then I am hard-pressed not to turn around and barge back through the door out into the cold night air, taking my bottle of wine and six-pack of beer with me, of course. My wife will stay at the party without me, no question. One of the first warnings I received about what awaited me in my future life of marital bliss came from, of all people, my mother-in-law, who herself has rubbed me the wrong way on more than one occasion. My wife Brenda grew up in New Brunswick, but that doesn’t mean she had to live there. “Brenda never missed a party between Saint John and Montreal,” her disapproving, tee-totalling mother warned me.
“If you want to get invited to parties, then you have to give them,” is Brenda’s practical philosophy. This wonderful way-of-thinking has led me into a lifetime of grudging party participation, mostly cleaning bathrooms, and post-party clean-up, mostly washing dishes at 2 a.m. And we were never talented enough hosts to limit ourselves to an all-inclusive, invite everyone -you- know- whether-they-come-from-the- neighbourhood- or work or- the yoga class type of party. Usually those parties don’t work for me. The only one who can pull off a big festive celebration is our friend Nancy, whose cooking skills and hostessing charm are right-off-the-charts and out- of- this- world. For Brenda and me it has to be kiss-based. Keep-It-Simple-Stupid.
Nor do we have the means to hire a catering company, like some of our more well-heeled Glebe neighbours do. Which means the grunt labour is all ours, unless some of the guests want to pitch in, which often happens. And then of course you also find the guests from hell. Like our neighbour Meaghan.
We had her gang over a couple of weeks ago. Not your down-to-earth, beer-drinking, hockey-playing type of crowd. In other words, they often make me feel uncomfortable.
It was a pot-luck supper party. We do the main course, everyone else brings appetizers, salads, desserts, that type of thing. I always like to fill up on appetizers to the point where I don’t even care when and if the meal is even served. Meaghan doesn’t share my philosophy.
I had just cracked open my third beer and helped myself to whatever fancy hors d’oeuvres one of our guests had brought. (They were good, but why have I never seen potato chips out at parties since my university days?) Anyway, Meaghan figured it was time to put this show on the proper schedule.
“Don’t you think it’s time to put the meal on the table,” she inquired sweetly.
I did my best not to spew Alexander Keith all over the cheese and crackers.
“Have another hors d’oeuvre, Meaghan,” I responded. I also smiled, showing as many of my gritted, chipped teeth as I could. Isn’t that how primates show intruders that they should mind their own business ?
Meaghan must have failed Primate Communications 101 because she was back in my face not five minutes later, looking at her watch.
“I think the guests are getting hungrier,” she warned me ominously, as if she expected it would only be a matter of minutes until wine glasses were being shattered against walls in an angry protest against incompetent dinner hosts.
Anyone who knows me is aware that I abhor confrontation. Exhaling loudly to let my antagonist know that it was her fault that Happy Hour was being shut down early, I made my way to the kitchen. Remembering what I often heard happens to people’s meals when they complain in a restaurant and send their plate back to the kitchen, I kindly offered to prepare Meaghan’s plate. Wisely, she refused my offer.
God bless us, everyone. Even Meaghan.

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