Why I Do It

By the time you read this, they will be on their way home: 8 in-laws for the weekend, dinner for 12 on Friday night, lunch for 18 on Saturday, and Easter lunch for 26 on Sunday.

It all takes weeks of preparation, none of which my husband quite understands. Massive lists and multiple trips to different food stores. Beds get miraculously made up, towels and soaps get distributed, and dozens of rolls of toilet paper get put into place.

This is the 12th or so time I’ve hosted everyone. Usually around Friday afternoon I question my sanity and wonder what I have gotten myself into. And by Sunday morning I am exhausted, sore, and sick of food in general (yet, like everyone else, I have overeaten again).

Why do I do it? Food is the excuse to get people together. Sure, I am happy when the tenth person compliments me on my glazed ham. And there is emotional satisfaction of mastering a family recipe and passing on the flavor from one generation to the next. But I am no Martha Stewart. Cooking for so many people feels more like being an Army cook than a gourmet chef—and I am so messy Martha would fire me if I ever worked for her.

It’s really about the moments. Like Lucia’s first egg hunt when she can really run, and for the first time gets the idea, and every one is filming and photographing—and then the dog goes to the center of the action and poops. Or the fact that my sister-in-law and I both cut our finger in the exact same spot cutting a crusty loaf of bread—and afterwards decided to become “blood sisters.” Or watching from across the room as my 87-year-old mother-in-law starts to cry as she says goodbye to my frail 80-year-old mother, who is dying of cancer and hasn’t quite admitted it to herself. My mother-in-law has seen two of her sisters-in-law buried in the past two weeks, and knows that every goodbye these days could be a last goodbye. Deep down, my mother knows that too, but she isn’t ready to believe it.

I do it because I want these moments in my life and in my daughters’ lives. And whether you are rich or poor, the most deeply joyous times come from love and family. If that means cooking mass quantities of food for a few days, I’m the woman for the job.

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6 Responses to Why I Do It

  1. Shelbi April 13, 2009 at 11:48 am #


  2. Deb April 13, 2009 at 5:44 pm #

    Though my harried weekend wasn’t quite as populated as your’s, I can certainly relate. Sunday dinner included my husband’s ex wife and her husband, my stepdaughter (who calls me mom and I call her my daughter), granddaugher and a host of friends and neighbors. One reason this year I invited the ex is because she, too, is dying of cancer and her daughter doesn’t appear to have come to grips with it yet. Having lost my mother and grandmother to the disease, I learned long ago that you take every opportunity to have everyone together because you never know for sure who won’t be with us for the next event. Even though it’s exhausting, didn’t you just feel like a happy little camper when you went to bed last night knowing you didn’t really need to fix breakfast for anyone but yourself this morning!

  3. Maya April 14, 2009 at 7:30 am #

    What a weekend! Sounds like you need another weekend to recover from it. I’m sure every had a lovely time eating a lot and watching the baby play–and the dog 🙂

  4. Maria April 14, 2009 at 8:49 am #

    this morning was just the recovery morning I dreamed of…husband made coffee, took the kids to school and I took a long hot shower and got back into bed for a while…but alas, now it’s off to work. But yes, it was worth it.

  5. Renee April 14, 2009 at 4:46 pm #

    Hi Maria –
    The confounding and troubling truth is that one of the times you see a loved one who is facing a terminal illness will turn out to be the last time you see him or her alive and with you. But you won’t know that – until it’s true.
    Which is why, as you say, you take those moments, cherish them and tuck them away – without voicing the situation everyone knows is true.
    This is what I remember about losing my Dad – saw him on a Thursday evening, to celebrate my son’s “graduation” from 8th grade. Then he and my mom spent a fun weekend attending other graduation parties, and by 9 pm Monday night he was gone.
    I think it’s a good thing we don’t know the day or the hour – we just live through each occasion with as much love and as much peace as possible during a difficult time.

  6. Liz April 14, 2009 at 9:41 pm #

    I’m one of those in-laws that Maria writes about and she really is making memories for our whole family. Thanks for a great weekend!

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