No matter how early I got out of bed when I was a kid, I would come down to a set breakfast table. Even during the school week. Even in the winter when my alarm (“You’re listening to 95.5, WP…..L….J”) would go off in the pitch black. Even when I was the first one up on Christmas morning, I could expect to flip on the kitchen light and see five plates, five place-mats, five juice glasses, five forks, knives, and spoons. This was not Santa or Santa’s elves at work. It was my dad, who had set the breakfast table the night before, after dinner, after the dishwasher cycle. After we had all retired to our bedrooms to do whatever it was we did before teenagers holed up in the dark texting their friends. When my friend Jenny would call me at night the first thing she’d always ask was, “Did Ivan set the table yet?”
We made endless fun of him for his obsessive advanced planning — and yet, there I was, two years ago, with our holiday table all ready to go (sans the fresh flowers) a full week and a half before any guest would walk through my white-Christmas-light-framed doorway. The truth is, that dinner was the first Christmas dinner Andy and I had ever hosted (usually it was at my parents’ or Andy’s parents’ house), and I was overwhelmed by all that had to go into feeding ten adults and six children. I found that hosting the holiday dinner wasn’t like the rest of the season’s chaos — much of which could be done in advance and usually one-clicked while waiting for the chicken to finish roasting. When I sat down and looked at my dinner to-do list, it was a lot of last minute shopping and stressing and the only thing I could think of to do to feel more in control was…set the table.
It felt so good to have that part of the event under control that now I do it before almost any occasion that merits the Dining Room Table treatment. Phoebe’s Secret Agent Party birthday table was set at least three days ahead of time and when Andy came home from work that night and saw it, he looked at me like I had nine heads. Just like we all used to look at Dad. But Dad gets it. I know he’s running around the county right now picking out gifts for his six grandchildren, and I’m sure he’s overwhelmed by the chaos, too, but I’m guessing that wherever he is, whatever he’s doing, his table is set.
PS: Andy made an apricot-bourbon glazed ham for that holiday dinner and it rocked. Look for that post in the next week.