BY LOIS DESOCIO
Since I began to move through this proverbial midpoint in life, the easy-going and flexible me has been noticing that there are a few things that I will absolutely not stand for, and will not budge on. Take cleaning up after a dinner party – as in: Do Not Clean. I like to save that task for the morning. I want to wake up to the mess from the night before. It reminds me of how much fun I had. I especially love that first shuffle into the kitchen the next morning, often after not enough sleep, and feeling a bit green. I survey the wreckage: dirty dishes in the sink, grainy glasses clumped together on the counter, soiled napkins under the dining room table, crumbs all over the place, sticky forks, saggy candles, stained tablecloth, chewed toothpicks …
Understand, that no one else in my house is allowed this luxury. I would holler at my kids if they left so much as a glass in the sink on a normal day (“Clean up! Put that in the dishwasher!”), but would also holler if they started moving plates during, and after, a party (“Don’t clean up! Get away from the dishwasher!”)
What all of this really comes down to – the essence in that leftover clutter – is the joy I get from bringing people together to eat. I can’t get enough of it, so let me stretch it out as much as possible. Let me have a visual mulling-over of the whole night on the next day. I’m especially wedded to this as I’ve become aware of the value of time spent with friends and family. The certainty of years of dinner parties to come is more fragile than it used to be. I treasure that fraternity that develops through hours spent eating, drinking and talking at the dinner table – I don’t want it to miss a beat. And I don’t want to miss anything, so I spend days beforehand cooking, and setting up every last detail, so everything is covered and ready to go the next day. All I have to do is set the party in motion and jump in. And stay. Clean-up duty is never invited – it would cut the night short, and deprive me of my post-party pleasure. (I often have to gently remind my well-meaning friends as the night wears down: “Sit down! Don’t clean up!”)
And the little gems that pop up after any gathering, like that half-full bottle of wine that I recently found, spilled, in the bathroom, would most likely have caused a huff and an eye-roll had I found it in a cleaning frenzy in the wee hours after the party. But the next morning, in the glow of the after party, I smiled. It meant my guests had as much fun as I did, and didn’t feel the need to clean up.