I share this story with my family’s permission. Holiday dinners at my mother’s home were always straight out of a magazine. Carefully planned nontraditional menus included side dishes such as wild rice and cranberry stuffed acorn squash, candied sweet potatoes with orange zest, steamed green beans bundled in a lemon rind, and pumpkin soufflé. And the table . . . My mother thoughtfully selected a color palette and artistically displayed the linens and table settings from her ever-growing collection. Although the affair was beautiful, the effort to make it look lovely was not a pretty sight. The groceries were typically purchased the night before, leaving little time to prepare. As the oldest, it was my responsibility to take charge and make the vision a reality. The other three siblings acted as sous-chefs and hired staff. To achieve our perfect presentation, orders flew, chaos erupted, arguments ensued, and many times, feelings were hurt. It was not until one Thanksgiving Day—when my mother and I were in the traditional act of achieving our Thanksgiving dream, and my two sisters were nervously awaiting the next task to be assigned—that my brother with a few words changed our entertaining style: “Mom,” he said, “people come for the fellowship, not the food!” What? But our vision, our plans, the table, the candied sweet potatoes . . .
It is true, our motives for the holidays were based solely on “our” vision, leaving our precious family to be trampled by the Holiday Express. Although we genuinely thought our actions were about making a great holiday for others, we were unintentionally doing the opposite. Our focus on the details left us unable to truly invest in our guests once they arrived because most of our energy had been wasted over the past twelve hours. Although we had become quite good at painting on a smile when opening the door, our guests could sense the tension. Our guests waited uncomfortably in the living room quietly eating spread made from fresh Pacific shrimp and thinly sliced organic scallions while we scurried to finish a task. The end result had become our priority not the opportunity to connect with each other. In the past nine years, my family has made great strides. We still have beautiful tables and fabulous food; however, we have learned to make realistic plans, prepare in advance, and most importantly, respectfully and joyfully participate with each other and our guests!
What things do you do to make your visions for the season more about people than your plan? Please share, we’re listening!