Monday, November 19, 2012
with thoughts of home, family, friends and the holiday season in maine.....
our house is a very.....(excuse me, but i could almost insert the word very two more times and then you could, maybe, hum to the tune of the crosby, stills, and nash song our house "....is a very, very, very fine house, with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard, now everything is easy 'cause of you...." except i won't and you needn't hum because it's not exactly what i mean right now anyway, but it's a wonderful sentiment—and a true one, except for the two cats, although in the past we have owned cats....), as i was trying to say before i interrupted myself, informal house.
i don't want to leave the impression that our house is some sort of idyllic paradise where one is free to do as one pleases—where anything goes and extreme and somewhat louche informality rules—where one can, metaphorically speaking, sleep all day, lounge around in one's pajamas, guzzle six-packs of maine's best IPA, roam through the house in muddy boots, and leave a trail of wet towels and dirty underwear and socks on the floor.
no, no, no, not that kind of informal. far from it. we are ordinary people trying to live a simple lifestyle, and we have the usual list of things that conspire to give us headaches.
this sounds confusing—it's actually quite simple. it all comes down to one thing: i think i am a wretched hostess.
oh, i can cook, and i am most welcoming, but after the first round of food and drink i frequently neglect to offer my guests more food and drink. (that's where the husband comes in. he's a great jeeves—he tends to these details...well, mostly he does.) i get so involved and distracted by fine people and interesting conversation that i forget to play hostess. that said, now this can be said: a lot of times around here if you need or want something you have to ask for it, and because of this deep flaw in my character, i tend to prefer (except at thanksgiving) serve-yourself pot luck or casual buffets.
but, come to think of it, maybe i'm not that flawed, not that wretched a hostess. maybe it's a means toward the informality i love, a subconscious tactic to get family and friends to relax and feel at home. translation: dig through the fridge, open random and unfamiliar cupboards, rummage where you will but please, if you need something, don't ask me—just help yourself.
at the heart of my concept of casual, at the core of my notion of laid-back, is the centrally located, historically significant, front door knocker.
hereabouts, the nonexistent front door knocker.
we don't have one, never have, probably never will. (although i like interesting door knockers—that stern one up there looks as if it might bite. what, exactly, is that thing? a not-so-welcoming-looking, part human/part beastie which appears to have come straight out of dickens' a christmas carol?)
we don't have a doorbell either at what is technically the front door (it broke, we never fixed it). we hardly ever use the so-called formal front door entrance anyway. instead, people go around the side of the house on a curving path through the garden and into the screened porch to the back door.
once upon a time, a time in the days of yore—and if your house was large enough—the back door, or side door, or any door that was not the front door, was considered the entrance for servants and trades people only, to be used for the daily drudgery of domestic tasks alone—upper crusty people would never have entered there.
i don't view the back door as a lowly door. it is the only door (other than the garage) that we use, that family and friends use, on a regular basis. around here there is no stiff ceremony, no tradition of the traditional front door. (by this i don't mean to imply that people who use their front doors are stiff, formal traditionalists—most people i know use their front door most of the time. oftentimes it's the only usable door. our use of the back door is only meant as an example, a symbol, of our informality.)
so that's it. holiday or not, we'll greet you—and our sweet black dog will greet you, too—at the back door, the door for all people, with no fuss or formality, just an unpretentious and friendly welcome into the heart of our home.