A couple of weekends ago, Sarabeth messaged me with a spur-of-the-moment suggestion that my family join her family for dinner that night. I messaged her back that we already had plans, but for future reference, I’d need a minimum seven days notice to prep my introverted husband for leaving the house. That process goes something like this:
Me: We’re having dinner with the So-and-So’s Friday night! (I prefer to open with an announcement rather than a consultation, because the latter is a gateway to my own personal hell with the phrase “let me think about that” written in flames above it.)
Him: Who are the So and So’s and why must they persecute me?
Me: You know the So and So’s! We met them last summer at that thing, and saw them again just last month at that other thing. You were saying on the way home how much you like them! It will be fun. You’ll be glad we did it.
Him: Who are you and why must you persecute me?
We repeat this daily until the day of the engagement, then hourly until it is time to go (or time for our guests to arrive, if we are hosting). When the front door opens, magic happens. Prince Charming appears–witty, attentive and gracious. It’s not an act, or a case of me slipping anything into his drink. He sincerely enjoys socializing with our friends. And just as sincerely forgets that he enjoys it in between. The occasion is fun. The idea of it is arduous.
The gap in our social appetites and attitudes should be a recipe for marital disaster, but it strangely isn’t. We are so far apart on that spectrum we wind up meeting face to face. Yes, there’s tension and friction sometimes, but over time, we’ve pulled each other toward the center of our two extremes.
If you drew a Ven diagram of our two childhoods, there’d be an elliptical overlap full of love, and not much else in common. Patrick grew up in an household where socializing outside of family was extremely rare. In mine, it rarely stopped. The act of giving and receiving hospitality, as a couple and as a family, is what feels normal to me. But I haven’t been able to say why it’s important beyond that. Why it’s worth it to me to go through the trouble of drawing my husband out of his comfort zone, when I could just as easily take my social needs “outside” and not have to impose on his normal. Then I was scrolling through my Babble Top Mom Blog folder the other day, and read this on Simple Mom, in a post written by Sandy Coughlin:
That wasn’t even the main point of her post, but those words in the middle of it articulated something for me: hospitality isn’t simply a preferred activity of mine–it’s something I deeply value. It’s part of what being a family means to me.
We finally did get together last weekend with Sarabeth and Bryan, and Alison and Taido. Watching our ten thousand offspring immediately flock together in the twilight on the trampoline (like the Murmation video of starlings, only way noisier), I felt how good it was to gather–not just good for me, but good for us all. “Meet and right so to do,” as they say in the Sursum Corda–the lifting of hearts before communion. And isn’t that what hospitality is–the breaking of bread or, in this case, rolling of sushi, with others? The lifting of hearts together, the stretching of our sense of we.