Over The River and Through the Woods! Thanksgiving is 2 weeks out and I’m sure many of you are scrambling around trying to prepare your homes for your family and friends. As you are dotting I’s and crossing T’s, I want to give you some insight into creating a welcoming space for loved ones that takes them back to the early years of the warmth and comfort at grandma’s house.
What big eyes you have!
First impressions are everything as they happen...once. They set the tone for what comes next, and they begin on the approach to your place. The way to grandma’s house was always a well-travelled path. You could anticipate the next turn. You knew how many minutes from the time you turned onto her street until you saw that familiar house awaiting our arrival. Do you give accurate directions to your place, confidently knowing exit numbers and street names? Is the front of your home festive and welcoming? All this energy is your google flag and makes a difference in your guest’s comfort level before they walk through the door. Lost guests, because you forgot to mention a right turn, are not happy campers especially if their car is filled with little ones looking forward to seeing you (or needing a bathroom after hours in the car)!
So better to see you with…
The genius of grandma is that she had the beautiful gift of seeing her friends and family. She could anticipate their needs because her many years of life gave her the blueprint of how to take care of her family. She was ready to take a coat and place it on a hanger or hook near the door, so she could give you a proper hug. She showed you where the bathroom was and was even ready with snacks to stave off hunger to buy her a little time to finish the turkey. Your favorite drink, be it chocolate milk or a glass of red wine was available to ease the anxiety that comes with dealing with holiday traffic. Granny knew the value of finding out about dietary concerns or special needs. She had your favorite games ready to be played as she understood their power of breaking the ice and uniting all the people she invited over before they sat down at the table to share their lives.
What big ears you have!
When people gathered in her home grandma knew when to tune in and tune out. Happy laughing and kids zipping through the house…good. Kids fighting over one item and messing with the growling dog or cat…bad. She knew that if she invited all the grandchildren over, then she would need more than one deck of cards or box of crayons. She planned for that. She knew the value of good old fashion fun. Remember the cooking decorating that lasted the exact same amount of time as setting the table? Speaking of cookies, wasn’t she a smart one putting her anxious dog in her bedroom giving small children the freedom to roam safely, and her special pooch a safe place to relax during a chaotic few hours?
So better to hear you with…
She listened and appreciated all the merriment. She waited patiently as you took years to think up what you were thankful for. She asked follow up questions about your boyfriend, like “is he handsome dear and do you have a picture?” because she wanted you to feel included in the conversation. Oh, think back to the laughter roaring from adult table! What was so funny?
There seemed to be an understanding amongst the family tribe that the teen years were your rite of passage to move up from using crayons to play hangman on the paper tablecloth at the kids’ table, to listening intently to adult topics that were, let’s face it boring, but you laughed anyway to be one of them! She knew you didn’t care about Aunt Sue’s work life, that’s precisely why she gave you an out by suggesting you help clear the table. It wasn’t ever presented as a chore. In fact, she bragged on you for being helpful gaining you brownie points for Santa. I think she might even have mentioned she had an in and was willing to pull a few strings to get you the items on your list! Yes siree, your grandmother could clearly see that when you helped to cook or clean you felt like part of the group. Was that her sixth sense?
What big teeth you have!
Ah yes, who could forget flashing those pearly whites for the camera! You looked through the old photos seeing how atrocious fashion was and wondering why your parents thought that hairstyle was a good idea. How did they ever attract each other? Grandma had a twinkle in her eye when these books or slides came out. You were thinking, oh God here we go again! But she knew. She knew that these moments of seeing all the family together were connecting you to your past and to being a part of something bigger in the world than just you. She emphasized (through the longest hour of your life) the importance of staying together through thick and thin. Tears were shed remembering those that were there in spirit, and you cherished the happy expressions of those that smiled at holding your newborn body for the first time. You were wanted. You were embraced. You were amongst your family.
When we accommodate the needs of the people we invite into our space and find ways to bring those people together with fun activities, special food, and even sharing in the burden of preparation and clean-up, we create special memories. Documenting those times serves to keep us all connected during the years as life takes us in many directions. So, remember that a little forethought (like grandma had) goes a long way in making this special holiday one that you can truly sink those teeth into and know that you belong.