Real life is sitting on the couch after the soccer season is over, Trick-or-Treating is done, and the baby shower guests are gone. Stripped of our outside clothes, makeup and jewelry, all washed over by good smelling soap, cuddled into the cushions of the sofa, watching Wallace and Grommit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, let me explain.
It’s been a busy few weeks in my house. I’m married to a fellow creative who thinks of Halloween as an opportunity to outdo his previous year’s costume. He was like this before I met him and when we said our vows, I knew I was committing to two unspoken things: the Redskins and family themed costumes.
This year our family dressed as the cast of Wreck-it Ralph, decorating the bed of our truck like a candy forest, and decking out our kiddie 4-wheeler with a hot pink shell made from cardboard. To go along with the race car, our daughter transformed into Vanellope von Schweetz, our son, Fix-it Felix, my husband (of course) Ralph, and me, Sergeant Calhoun.
While he was executing our Trunk-or-Treat takeover, I was heavy into baby shower planning, and scrutinizing every detail. It was my third shower, yet I wasn’t sure what to put on the menu. My mindset for parties has grown lax. I prefer to buy some food, put it out, play some games, eat melt-in-your-mouth cake and delight in the mother’s face as she, with great exasperation and a little sweat, smiles and thanks each person for every bottle, onesie, and tube of butt paste.
But the two women co-hosting with me could easily be event planners and they had more in mind. Pressure came over me with each new idea. How could I pull this or that off? On a budget? Without a mini muffin tray to make the quiches. Yes, I have a delicious recipe for quiches, but making them for 20 people is different than making them for four. Not to mention that making them for my family, who are mostly pleased with my food, is loads different from making food for strangers who may judge me.
At the height of my planning anxiety, I tried comparing notes on the creative process with my equally creative husband, who said, “I don’t think about it, I just do it.”
Ugh. “Really, that’s it, that’s your creative process.” I laid down the scissors I was using to cut out iron-on patches for onesies and thought I wanted to be a man for a day. “I’m never talking to you about creativity again,” I said.
And he explained that he does NOT think about any detail before he does it, but he thinks he falls short of what he wants to achieve each year, and with each new year, he improves on his ideas.
Add to this that other people’s thoughts or opinions do NOT ever cross my husband’s mind – imagine that kind of freedom. For instance, at Trunk-or-Treat, he strapped a NERF gun to my leg – part of Calhoun’s costume – and I was like heck to the no. I care what other mother’s think of me, in general, and some of them seemed reticent about our trunk theme to begin with. But it was a little kid who asked me if the gun was real that made me cringe and cast my fake weapon in the truck.
My husband didn’t think about the headlines, what people would say behind our backs, or how it might terrify the little ones. He created costumes to the likeness of the movie characters and he did a really good job, creating four costumes and a set design for $100.
But he’s not a woman. And women can be harsh critics of other women and I’ve already mentioned on here that I’m super critical of myself, doubting every decision, my capability, and my core. So working with two other women on the baby shower, who are highly capable and talented at the craft of event planning, was a little scary, not gonna lie.
I’m a writer and for the most part I work alone. I prefer this solitude. Including others in my creative process can be stressful, since I percolate on ideas for a long time, not having answers until I put pen to page. Once I write out my ideas, they continue to morph in revisions, meaning I don’t have to commit to a character, a plot, or even an outline.
But planning an event with other people is different. It’s a collaborative process, and with this, decisions have to be made early about a theme and colors, and they have to stick and I don’t like stickiness. But stickiness, or cohesion, is what makes any creative project come together – from a baby shower to a book, to a themed trunk.
If I’m honest, many of the best ideas came from my fellow planners, like chicken and waffles on sticks with maple syrup mixed with hot pepper. This is what one of my co-hosts made and displayed so beautifully.
My other co-host changed the design of the table and refused to use the plastic tray my cut up veggies came in; instead, she found a glass sectional tray in my pantry and re-plattered the carrots and broccoli. This could’ve miffed me, but what she did, as you’ll see below, was picture worthy.
By the time guests arrived, our dining room looked professionally decorated, the food pretty and scrumptious, and the hosts, able to focus on the people.
Would the mom-to-be have felt as good with some store bought food? Maybe. It’s the thought that counts and the thought can be the detail of knowing the mom’s taste in food, or decor, or cake, or simply the gesture of offering up your home.
I don’t think you have to go out of your way or blow your bank account to make someone feel celebrated. My grandmother had very little in terms of money and her home was very small, but she had a knack for making me feel special. She would curl ribbons for my Easter baskets and wear bunny ears to make us delight in the holiday. One time she made a cube steak taste like a New York Strip for my birthday. She didn’t have much, but she gave everything. And that’s what you felt. You felt like she gave you everything she had.
My fellow planners gave it all they had too and they had a lot to give. From ideas to time; platters and drink containers to food and clean up; there was nothing they weren’t willing to give or do to make the mom times three feel special.
The effort is what matters.
Likewise, over the past few weeks, our family has given everything we have…on the soccer field, at school, at work, at Trunk-or-Treat, and yes at the baby shower, and after it was all over, we sat on the couch and enjoyed an animated flick on television.
It’s a full, simple life behind these doors. We accept wet, uncombed hair, raw scrubbed faces, and nighttime ragged, soft pajamas. We accept what is good and what could’ve been better and we accept that it’s not the showers we plan, or trunks we treat, or movies we watch or don’t that make us, but the family sandwich on the sofa after a hard day’s work. That’s where real lasting memories are made and that’s where we get filled back up, to be us.