How much advance prep do your guests need? Check our handy chart
Guest: Someone who’s been invited to invade your space — your home, your table, or your country, and, depending on how old you are, maybe even your toys.
A Guest is not to be confused with “Visitor,” who may or may not be a welcome addition. Think meddler or mouse — both of whom just show up, entitled.
As hosts, we graciously open our homes to others, often moving our own children to their siblings’ bedroom floors in order to accommodate everyone. We prepare guest rooms by making the beds with the requisite “good” linen, fresh (matching) towels in the bathrooms, modest (designer) water bottles, some mini toiletries, souvenirs of past hotel stays, and other sundry simchah-bag offerings, along with the only safety pins and Band-Aids in the house, all placed in a pretty basket.
If we’re feeling very nice, we have a few individually wrapped candies in a small dish next to the box of tissues, plus a Shabbos lamp and a working electric clock whose alarm has been disabled. Please don’t ask me how I know about the importance of a disabled alarm on the clock.
What is it about celebrating a simchah weekend that necessitates handing your guests mishloach manos in personalized totes? Look, we know full well that they’re being fed at the simchah. Why do we feel the need to ensure they don’t pass out in between meals?
Because we “host,” we have learned how to “guest.” Knowing how to be a guest is as important as learning how to be a host. (Hint: Don’t eat in other people’s bedrooms, and if the Heavens return the kindness, they won’t eat in yours.)
Don’t worry: It doesn’t take long to learn the art of guesting. Once you’ve hosted for a few days you fully appreciate how important it is not to guest for that long.
There are three categories of company:
No advance warning needed
If you’re expecting your children’s little friends for the afternoon, hosting guests means making sure the kiddie toys are neat enough to play with and the noise level is kept to an acceptable roar. Good parenting includes chips, cookies, a yogurt or two, and cold drinks in good supply. There’s a “close the door” policy for when it gets too loud, and a “leave the door open” policy for when it gets too quiet. No one will notice the basket of unfolded laundry in the middle of the living room floor — and no one will fold it for you when you’re not looking. The vintage towels in the bathroom are meant to be used, hopefully after everyone has “washed their hands.”
*See Addendum A.
**See Addendum B.
A few days’ notice needed
Inviting your own close friends and their children for a Shabbos meal means straightening up the living and dining rooms (only), setting the table with the nice dishes and, honestly, the larger paper napkins will do. Don’t worry about the menu, just serve your family favorites (finger food). Put the baskets with unfolded laundry one on top of the other in your bedroom. Graciously accept that bottle of wine you gave them a few months ago. The towels? You’ve changed the towels in the necessary bathrooms. All’s right with the world.
Heaven Help You
Start preparing two months in advance
Expecting the president of the United States — or your boss? Clean the silver, polish the furniture, and wash the carpets. Iron the folded (!) laundry and put it all away. (Prep your kids in advance so they don’t walk in in their pajamas, screaming that they can’t find the laundry baskets of clean clothes.) Talk yourself through this. You can do it.
The overdone menu consists of the prize-winning entrees inspired by Susie Fishbein, Chanie Nayman, and Naomi Nachman along with the impressive desserts from both Simply Gourmet and Peas, Love and Carrots with a smattering of Jamie Geller and a heaping serving of Rorie Weisberg — all of which you’ve been cooking since ten minutes after you found out they were coming. Julia Child would kvell.
And… they’ve arrived. The house is immaculate. The table is set with the best china and the crystal goblets you’ve saved for state occasions. The tablecloth is pristine for the first and last time (it’s new). There are spanking-new towels in the bathroom. (You remembered to take the price tags off just in time.) You’ve read your children the riot act and sent the ten-year-old along with his four-year-old brother to the saints next door for the afternoon.
*Addendum A. Feeding teenage boys requires an entirely different set of rules. Just back a semi-truck filled with meat into the driveway and unload it directly into the freezer. Don’t worry about the rest of the menu. The boys will either use a functioning grill outside or get enterprising and create their own firepit — or both. You will need a case or two of BBQ sauce and you’ll have to apologize to the neighbors in advance for the blocked driveways, the stray footballs, the smell, and the loudspeakers. Important: Never leave any baked goods or fried schnitzel in said freezer, and Don’t Ask Questions.
**Addendum B. Teenage girls. The giggling and screeching sounds are muffled behind closed doors. Hosting your daughter’s friends means that she cleans her room — on her own — and makes you promise not to step foot into the house while her friends are there. Don’t worry about the apologies. She’s too busy rolling her eyes and ignoring anything you say. The “Don’t Ask Questions” rule applies here, too: The wafting fumes from the various sprays and lotions may sometimes overwhelm you, and you’ll need to lay in a supply of fuses for when the curling irons and hair-dryers blow out the electricity. Also, forget about using any of the bathrooms.
Note: Combining Addendum A and Addendum B over a few years (but never concurrently, of course), could one day solve the Shidduch Crisis.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 815)
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