By Every Family’s Got One Producer — Barbara Herel
Have you ever noticed those families where a request for a last-minute sleepover, or friend to stay for dinner, or five extra people to come to the family holiday gathering wasn’t met with alarm and dread? But rather a genuine smile and an easygoing invitation of “Sure, the more the merrier.”
Growing up, this was very much my family.
It wasn’t that our house was big and rambling because it wasn’t. (It was, and still is, a cape.) And it certainly wasn’t because we were always guest ready, far from it. (Unless you mean having extra folding chairs down the basement and clean towels tucked away in the TV-room closet.)
Our house couldn’t escape that lived-in look because there was five of us after all — my mom, dad, me, my two brothers, plus a dog or two, and a cat or two occupying every single square inch of space.
Perhaps the dark-wood paneling…
and the “field stone” paneled accent wall gave the illusion of our home being more pulled together than it actually was. Come to think of it, the plastic furniture covers and the sturdy plastic runner that ran from the front door to the middle of the living room did manage to offer clean lines and a sense of order, I suppose. But maybe the reason for my parent’s entertainment ease was this —
Our family life was loud and chaotic already.
So who was really going to pay attention to the clutter of Prell, Gee Your Hair Smell Terrific, and Jean Nate bottles in the bathroom, or my brother Rob’s unmade bed, or hairballs in the corner?
I do try to embrace this same open-door policy of my youth with my own family and home both of which are considerably smaller. There are three of us — my husband, daughter, and I, plus two cats — and our home is really, truly small.
It’s a cottage actually, built in 1928, and packed with so much quirky charm that when my husband and I first moved in I kept asking him, “Do you think the other bed and breakfast guests will be joining us soon?”
When Tony and I first started looking at possible family homesteads…
we created the obligatory must-have list, which consisted of two things – a fireplace and a water view. Oh, how romantically naïve. We were newlyweds and childfree, and coming from a one-bedroom co-op in Brooklyn, so, by comparison, a hut would have looked sprawling to us.
As we walked through the cottage, we gave no thought to bathrooms (we have one) or bedrooms (we have two). Or how big the kitchen or dining space might be (which is teeny and tiny) or how many closets it had (we have two actual closets in the whole joint and only one in a bedroom).
There was no thought given to adding a human baby to our family one day…
and all the baby stuff, much less how it would be to entertain guests. But it did have a lovely little view of the harbor and a wood-burning fireplace – sold!
Thankfully a few years later when our baby girl did come into our life, we did manage to carve out room for her and all her stuff and continue to do so nearly nine years later.
In our tight quarters, we’ve also been successful at navigating our impromptu dining festivities with friends and family on a fairly regular basis. Although it does send me into a cleaning frenzy every time we extend an invitation and makes me long to start a major home-renovation project to, somehow, some way, add to our floorplan.
But honestly, if we did have a bigger family space…
we’d see it as an opportunity to have more people over on a whim so we’d be in exactly the same situation. The bottom line about having gatherings of any kind is that it’s more about the mindset than the physical space.
What keeps me embracing this seemingly breezy “Yes, of course!” attitude – even as I panic and begin furiously picking up and cramming away in actuality – is holding dear all that giddy excitement of my mom or dad saying, “Of course your friend can eat with us.”
From my grownup vantage point…
I also know that those I invite into my cramped, minimally tidy world are more interested in the good food and conversation, and dance party, than the lack of elbow room and square footage. And they’re sure to notice the water view before commenting on the dust piles or the pile of underwear I forgot to put away – and still like me anyway.
Welcome to Every Family’s Got One (a story, that is)! Thank you for being here.
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