Prepping for a Holiday Party
“Tell them you’ll come for a few minutes,” I begged off, asking Benedetto to RSVP.
He graciously called, and the neighbor would hear none of it.
“No, no, bring the whole family,” she urged. “Even if for a short time. We want to see everyone.”
She was so sweet, how could we say no? They knew our kids and dogs by name and had been stable neighbors over the years. She understood the real danger that when our family of six descended, the party may spill out into the cold, so we always gave folks the option to stipulate “adults only”. But this was a holiday party intended for all ages, and appeared to be in honor of the many new neighbors our part of the city had embraced over the past couple of years.
Honestly, on our travel schedule, we knew those immediately to either side of us, and across the street, and kitty-corner, but beyond that, people came and went in the city at a rate they never used to. Many had done major renovations to hundred-year-old homes, moving in, then moving out for a year or so while work crews did their magic. It was hard to keep track.
Never mind that we had these talks every day. They would be on display, on demand, as in: Stand Up Straight, Smile, Make Small Talk. Could they do it?
We seemed to think so.
“You may have one cookie,” I instructed, telling them that the neighbor said there would be cookies for the kids. “One cookie. We’ll only be staying for a few minutes.”
“What if I don’t want a cookie?” Mashenka asked, as only a 14-year-old could, as though her desire for a cookie, or for no cookie, had any bearing on whether or not she should eat one at our neighbor’s holiday party.
“But what if I’d rather just have something to drink?”
“You can drink a big glass of water at home. Ask yourself, do you know whether or not the drink will have alcohol in it? Colored dye that could stain everything? Do you think you can carry the drink with their two dogs in the house and not spill it?” I asked rhetorically. “No, we will not be drinking there.”
About this time they were wondering if they even wanted to go. Which led us to Approved Conversational Topics, since, left to their own devices, it would not go well.
“Does anyone have an idea about what they might want to discuss with neighbors?” I optimistically ventured.
“Will you be going away for the holidays?” one asks.
“What are your holiday traditions?” asks another. “Do you go to church?”
“Too personal for an informal open house,” I demur, expressing my objections before Benedetto swoops in.
“Stick to weather, school, food,” he encourages. “We adults will tackle the tough subjects.”
Which, of course, the first question we were asked was whether or not we were coming or going from church.
The prep-work appeared to put their minds at ease, which were still struggling over whether or not to eat a cookie. The general rule of thumb usually followed that, for some of them, if we gave them permission to do something, well, they could come up with a reason to want none of it. If it were forbidden behavior, they would somehow “forget” and be drawn directly to doing it.
Our three teens and one preteen were already dressed well for other events that day: the girls in beautiful, red dresses, fancy headbands, black tights and party shoes; the boys in grey pants, white shirts and red plaid ties, red v-neck sweaters, and black jackets. We parents wore our own suits, mine with red skirt and blouse, Benedetto’s a sharp, dark-grey business suit and red tie.
The six of us descended upon the party carrying a giftbag of homemade panettone. Heads turned as the several dozen neighbors gathered glimpsed sight of our stunning children, smiling, chatting, and standing up straight. That their backgrounds had once been so dismal and disparate served as a strong exclamation point to the sight standing before them, and a testimony to the miracles of the season.
(PS — The cookies were said to be in yet another room which we never found. So much for that directive. The children ate small bites of sandwich wraps, instead, when urged by our hostess. “I think it was chicken.” “No, it was fish.” “Cheese,” another insisted as they discussed it later. By their description, it may have been sushi. Personally, I stuck with one bagel chip and hummus, while Benedetto moved in on the abundant cheese trays. We took our leave after 15 minutes, touching base with neighbors old and new, who felt the need to quiz the children on their school and our travels. They stuck to the script for the most part, ad-libbing where necessary, and making their parents very proud.
————–Tags: a neighborhood open house and our Russian children on display, do you know your neighbors?, EE adoption and socialization, how to behave in Polite Society, international older child adoption, prepping children for a holiday party, Russian older child adoption issues, teaching children how to converse, teaching children manners for holiday gatherings, Ukrainian older child adoption issues