Suzanne Perez Tobias: Spontaneous parties spice up the holidays

12/25/2013 12:00 AM

12/24/2013 1:51 PM

As I scooped chili into bowls, poured a few glasses of wine and passed them out to our impromptu guests, I realized something I should realize more often:

Parties shouldn’t wait for perfection.

My neighbor and her daughter had stopped by to drop off a birthday present for my daughter. Hannah was on her way back from a friend’s house, so I invited them in to wait.

I apologized for the state of the kitchen. Piles of mail and other papers sat on the table, waiting to be sifted through. A few dirty dishes sat in the sink, some clean ones on the drying rack. The floor hadn’t been mopped, the counters hadn’t been sanitized.

“Don’t be silly,” Debbi said. “You’ve been cooking. It smells great in here!”

It did. The scent of chicken stock, white pepper, garlic and chili peppers wafted from the pot on the stove. White lights twinkled around nutcrackers on the kitchen shelf.

We moved into the living room, and I apologized for that next – the dog hair on the ottoman, the books and remote controls scattered on the table, the unvacuumed carpet, the undusted shelves. And then the dogs, bounding around everywhere like Tigger on shots of 5-Hour Energy.

I lit a few candles, because I’m told that everything looks better in candlelight.

“Oh, it’s totally fine,” Debbi said with a gracious wave. “I hate to bother you. We won’t stay long.”

She was wrong, thank goodness, and we ended up having a great time. We feasted on chili and drank wine. We chatted about our Christmas shopping adventures. My husband came home, and Debbi texted hers to stroll over and join us. The men poured beers. We ate cookies.

It was perfect.

But had I waited until I thought everything was perfect, it never would have happened.

Too often, I feel like everything in my household should be in tip-top shape before I invite people over for a meal or even a cup of coffee.

Excuses are easy: I’m busy, the house is a mess, my budget’s tight, the dogs misbehave, we still haven’t hung that bathroom mirror, I can’t find the cloth napkins.

But the truth is even easier: Life is short, and none of the important people in my life care about dusty bookshelves.

Why not seize the moment, scoop the chili, pour the wine and just relax?

When Hannah walked in the door, she looked around and said, “I didn’t know we were having a party!”

I didn’t either, I told her. And sometimes, those are the best kind.

About Suzanne Tobias

Suzanne writes about family life on Thursdays. She has covered local news for The Eagle since 1990. Suzanne is a native of North Carolina and earned an English degree from North Carolina State University.

Find her on Twitter: @suzannetobias

Contact Suzanne at 316-268-6567 or by emailing her at

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