Friday, July 25, 2008

Summer guests

When we lived in Prince Rupert (on BC's north coast), and our kids were small, family and friends would make the long drive or fly up from the Vancouver area to visit. Then we moved to Vancouver Island (the big island, first, not our current smaller one which is off the "big island" -- follow?), we'd get Rupert friends visiting as well as family and friends from Vancouver. And, of course, as our children got older, there were always sleepovers. The house would be full, kids would be running in and out, we'd be changing bedding, doing laundry, hauling home bags and bags of groceries and making lasagnas and spaghetti, hamburgers on the grill, huge bowls of caesar salad, big loaves of garlic bread designed to fill those ever-hungry stomach, and as tiring as I found it all, I loved it! I loved the kind of extending visiting that you do that way, as you put a meal together, as the kids eventually concede exhaustion and hit the sleeping bags one by one, as you nurse the last glasses of wine before you do the same, and then the next day with coffee as you whip up a big batch of pancakes. Some of my best memories ever are of days like that at a friend's cabin at Lakelse Lake near Terrace, and I loved being able to pass along some of that spirit-of-summer hospitality myself.
Here at our beachside home we've been able to do quite a bit of that as well, especially during the earlier years. For almost a decade now, though, Pater's done a commuting thing, first to Ottawa for several years (now that was a long commute!) and for the last four or five years, he's been working in Vancouver. Much of our social energy gets diverted by the need to prioritize good couple time, especially since his work is pretty stressful. As well, his is a job where I can't always count on him getting home Friday night should something come up. Summer's especially intense in his field, and there can often be some kind of crisis to field over a weekend. We do still try to have friends over for dinner enough so that they don't completely forget us, but until retirement, our social life is on that proverbial back burner. Lately, because it's been perfect weather on the island, I've been rather missing all that summer-guest action (even while I know perfectly well I'd get cranky if I got too much of it).

So I was quite tickled this week to answer the phone one afternoon and hear my nephew Chris announce that he and 3 buddies were at Horseshoe Bay, ready to catch a ferry to come see me. And they seemed pretty receptive to my offer to feed them and provide a place to crash -- Chris knows he has a standing offer with me of a homemade blackberry pie, but he hasn't taken me up on it for years, way out in Edmonton as he is. I hustled into town, happily hauling back bags and bags of food (way too much, it turned out), then roasting chickens (such an easy way to feed a crowd), and more roasting -- new potatoes for a big salad, and the standby garlic bread, and a big Greek salad, and I got the pie made (no, this year's berries aren't ready yet, but I try to keep some of last year's in the freezer 'til the new guys arrive).

They were perfect guests -- considerate, appreciative, and convivial, and I enjoyed the opportunity to practise my summer hosting skills. This weekend, I'll get a chance to use them again, although the guests are all immediate family. It's the double birthday today -- Happy Birthday Bronwen and Zachary -- and Paul's birthday is early next week AND it's Bathtub weekend here which is a big deal in Nanaimo, so my crew are all coming home, three of my kids with two of their partners. I'm heading off soon to get their favourite artisan sausages for the barbeque and to pick up the secret ingredients for the favourite family birthday cake.
We'll be missing one daughter, though, so it won't be the perfect summer weekend it could be. But now that she's started up her blog again, we can at least see what she's doing far off in Toronto. Call me a proud mama, but I get such a kick out of the way she writes up her adventures. Here, for example, is what she says about a recent hair crisis:
I am a cook, who loves butchery and can testify in court that the woman who "cut" my hair must also share the same passion. She did a real hack job. My hair was neither long nor short. If I had been a male in the mid eighties, I would have done well with the ladies as my new mullet screamed business in the front, party in the back!!!!
What about you? Any summer guests this weekend? Or are you stuck in the city wishing you could be a summer guest? Are guests and summer a good combination for you or are they instead a recipe for crankiness? Do tell . . .


  1. Oh, I love those weekends with a houseful of people. Our schedules haven't allowed such a thing in a long time either, and I miss it. Hope you all have a wonderful time!

  2. We have usually been the grateful houseguests over the years, and even then not so often. Being a military family, we move a lot and have never been closer to the extended family than a five-hour drive, and that was only during the one year we lived in Halifax (family in Cape Breton). My husband is the youngest of five and when we first got married, my sister- and brother-in-law in CB, knowing the nature of his job, told us to think of their home as our 'home away from home'. (By this time both his parents were dead.) So, my SIL is OUR materfamilias! Your weekend plans sound great to me! Enjoy! Patricia P.S. To answer your question - no, no summer guests, apart from our friends who were here a couple of weeks ago. It meant so much to us that they trekked all this way!

  3. Thanks Pseu -- and hope you're having fun on the beach this weekend.
    Patricia: From what I know of Cape Breton families, it must be tough to be so far away.
    That time with your guests who made that trek must have been special for both parties -- they would have had a close-up view of European life and you got all those goodies from home!

  4. How wonderful to be so close to your family that you WANT them to stay. I'm sure you'll have a great weekend together (and then appreciate the quiet once they are gone!).

  5. I cannot even remember my last blackberry pie. Sounds delicious...

  6. Actually, it's not so bad. There's only my husband's eldest sister in CB; the family grew up abroad, CB is the place the parents came from and retired to. My husband only lived there for the last 4 months of high school, then again for a post-uni college course, but he still thinks of it as home. Only the one sister made a conscious decision to settle down there, the rest of the siblings are in other provinces and the US. However, we take advantage when we can, as it's such a lovely place to live (perhaps not to work, people usually go away for work!). We might retire there some day. P.

  7. Just enough visitors puts a sparkle in summer! Especially those who twitch with delight to have your pie.

    We have no imminent houseguests but with two 21 year olds that changes by the day.

  8. Cybill: Yes, that's also one of the delights of houseguests -- how much one appreciates the quiet after they've gone ;-)
    anon: it's my favourite pie, with apple a close second.
    patricia: I've not yet been there but from what I've heard, it would be a great place to retire.
    duchesse: yes, with two 21-year olds, especially young men, I'm sure you continually feel you're feeding a crowd as is.

  9. Such events were very common as a child, my parents had very many friends who we would hook up with for fun and frolics for all ages. Sadly my life has been very family orientated for a while and visitors are rare. This summer is giving me a taste of life without the children and it is taking some adjusting to.
    My afternoon on Clapham Common this weekend gave me much 'lifestyle' food for thought, which I will blog tomorrow.
    As for the hair story I could add many many more, the ONLY consolation is that it will grow.

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