As you grow older, you understand that family does not have to be a blood relative. As a child I was surrounded by neighbors who I now realize were my extended family. All of the old men (where they really so old or just that in my young mind?) who sat in front of my dad's barbershop lined up like birds on a wire, drinking sodas and coffee and gossiping. There was Mr. Harry who knew me as a child and later asked my poor husband the same question time after time "Boy, are you taking good care of my girl?"; my mother's friend who kept me supplied with little tubes of Avon lipstick samples. I was not allowed to wear lipstick but I felt incredibly special to have such precious grownup things. My mother's good friend and my adopted aunt bought me a 'poodle skirt' because with six children my family could not spend extra money on what was obviously a nonessential item. Julian's mom (I only knew her as that) who allowed me to pay five cents for hard cover mystery novels from her secondhand
store. In return my mother kept her supplied with fresh lemonade and ice cold Kool-Aid. Some of the authors I read then remain favorites today.
More recently I had a friend who held open house every Thanksgiving and Christmas for friends who had no plans for these holidays. While I do have a large family, at that time I was working part time as well as full time and could not make real holiday plans. Going to my girlfriend's house provided a wonderful oasis for me because no matter what time you arrived, you were never too late for the festivities. You were always on time. These are such treasured memories.
You can make your own unique extended family. Choose your special family wisely, surround yourself with those you make you feel good and with whom you can share love.
If you are among those who find themselves alone at this time of year, why not start your own tradition of an open house for friends? The best thing is you don't have to set a traditional table. Be creative.
* Subs/hoagies with the fixings, cole slaw, pickles, etc. Have others bring baked beans, franks and buns.
* Chili with or without beans and corn bread or make boxed corn muffins.
* Stew with Italian or French bread.
* Spaghetti with meatballs and large side of buffalo wings with celery sticks and bottled blue cheese dressing.
* If you decide to go traditional, serve mashed potatoes and baked ham or turkey. You can buy turkey breast instead of a whole turkey. Make it pot luck and ask everyone to bring a dish for the rest of the meal. Try to get the 'bringing' list before hand so you don't end up with five desserts and no vegetables.
You will want the following for all menus:
A large green salad of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers only;
Sliced veggies for dipping (use bottled dressing for the dip);
Sodas, beer, dessert, etc. Some people would prefer to bring these items.
A reminder that open house does not have to mean 'all day', set a time, perhaps from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Just make sure you have enough food to last the full time. One way to help keep the food portions fairly even is to buy eight inch paper or plastic plates with the three portions already measured. Buy six ounce paper cups instead of 12 ounces. Buy large bottled soft drinks instead of cans and you won't find half cans of soda all over your house the next day. Also, have some 'filler' snacks available for munching. Stock up on peanuts, popcorn, pretzels, raisins when they are on sale.
There is no better time to dust off that game of Monopoly, Scrabble, checkers, chess or dominos for great fun. Better yet buy a game of pick-up sticks or jacks. You're never too old for an old fashioned good time. While you are playing listen to some old time radio programs.
And most important, try to remember it's not about the food, it's the company that makes this day special.
For additional reading, see related column Tips For Singles On Surviving (and enjoying) The Holidays by Toni Coleman, BellaOnline's Single Life Host.
And finally; I wish you love, peace, many blessings and a lovely holiday.