In my thirties, I resolved to be a better hostess, so I started having more parties. This was hard for me because I generally don’t like messes and am not a naturally welcoming person. Like, someone comes to my house, and my first inclination is to block the entrance with my body and chat with them as they stand on the porch. Or, when people come inside, I never think to ask them to sit down until I see them hovering awkwardly.
When I was a new mother, I threw a first birthday party for my first baby complete with rented tables and chairs and personalized M&Ms in baby food jars that I saved for six months and affixed professionally printed labels to the front of. I don’t remember having any fun at that party because I worried the whole time, about everything from cutting the cake to getting all the scuff marks off my floor.
As we added a second baby and a then a third and a fourth, we opened our doors more frequently. We stuffed piñatas with choking hazards and invited the whole class to celebrate birthdays. We started having slumber parties, play dates, family holidays, and random dinner guests, and we almost enjoyed it.
Late thirties, we fell into a rowdy group of friends who loved to throw parties. I watched, fascinated, as women served taco bars, enchiladas, gumbo, and pulled pork. Men grilled whole animals worth of meat. Children ran amok in basements and yards, half dressed, dragging weapons and pieces of costumes. Soon, it was our turn to reciprocate, and I pretended not to care that my house was the smallest of the bunch until I really didn’t care and could fill my kitchen island with platters and crockpots galore, a consummate Wisconsin hostess at last.
That’s why my miscarriage just 2 months before my 39th birthday hit me so hard. Even before I mastered the art of entertaining in my home, I always prided myself on having a hospitable uterus. This time, though, my body was a bad hostess to the 5-millimeter clump of cells that should have become an entire universe of possibility.
Maybe the baby knew it would never have new anything or a moment of quiet or parents who weren’t already worried about so many other kids. Maybe my body wanted to tell me it was all done throwing parties for people who would make a big old mess of everything on their way out. Maybe my eggs were too old.
No, that last one isn’t right. Every good hostess knows that if there’s a problem with the venue, you can’t blame the guests. You just have to do a better job of picking your play list or keeping your kids downstairs or refilling everyone’s wine glasses. You just need more cheese, probably. Maybe guests would stay longer if you had a few stools around your kitchen island so more of them could sit down. Or if you didn’t clear the table and just played euchre instead.
Maybe the baby would have stayed if it knew how much we loved it already from the second it was just a double pink line on a stick. If it could imagine being patted by its sister’s fat hands or brought into its brother’s kindergarten class for show and tell. If it knew that our summer pool has a zero-depth entry perfect for babies to sit in and splash and look bemused. If it knew that it would have two great grandmas still around to love it and two grandmas and also two grandpas who would let it play with their glasses whenever it wanted to. If it thought about our Christmas card and how we already had a place for it in our family tableau. Or how its dad and I would think we were such great parents by the time it got to high school that it could basically do whatever it wanted and could probably steal all our liquor out from under our noses, and it was going to be a Wisconsin baby, so we’d have a lot to steal.
Oh, Baby, I’m so sorry you had to go, and I wish there was something I could say to get you to come back. We’re a fun family, Baby. We throw a lot of parties.