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Laurie Nigro
Martha Stewart be damned — let’s just say ‘it is what it is’ and enjoy the holiday

When it comes to hosting holiday family gatherings, we strive for perfection, something out of Martha Stewart magazine. Then reality interferes. Stock photo: Fotolia

I love hosting gatherings. Nothing makes me happier than a houseful of my nearest and dearest, gathered around my table, enjoying the fruits of our labor, laughing and storytelling and making memories. Plus, it forces me to clean my house, which is a win for everyone. However, this year, my time management skills leave something to be desired.

You know that sponsored TV spot, “It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?” The answer is yes, I do. They’re hiding in their rooms because I’m just now eating dinner and dinner is Moe’s queso, straight from the tub, whilst standing over the kitchen sink.

I live under a constant delusional cloud that tells me I need way less time to accomplish things than I actually do and that I have far more time to do those things than I actually do. It seemed perfectly reasonable to start preparing four days before company would arrive. And if this was another week or 1953 and I didn’t have a job and over-scheduled kids, it may have been. But neither of those were the case and instead of many uninterrupted hours of cleaning, cooking, baking, and laundering, I had not many, but constantly interrupted, hours to do an entire spring cleaning of both house and yard. That seemed much more reasonable when I didn’t write it down. Or think about it for more than 23 seconds in a row.

We had such a cold March that I got used to hibernating. I forgot that I even had a yard. I blissfully blocked out the fact that the lawnmower kept moving closer to the front of the garage like a smaller — yet equally lethal — version of Stephen King’s “Christine,” and that little green shoots were popping up all around me. I mentally allowed myself another couple of months to merely observe the outdoors from behind the windows, but not actually interact with it and its constant neediness.

Then, midweek came around and I was in my freaking flip-flops, glaring at the foot-tall lawn scallions as I opened my windows. The mostly useless, but still feared for the possibility of being correct, weather people were calling for temps in the mid-70s on Easter. And outside that window, past the scallions and purplish-green flowering weedy things, was a yard overrun.

Last year’s fall cleanup had evolved into a winter cleanup and then a never cleanup, because now we were hibernating. When I look outside in winter, my eyes see a fuzzy, impressionistic lawn with swipes of browns and grays, but nothing with actual definition. It’s like being snow blind, but better because there’s no actual blindness, just my own mental refusal to accept the sad and sorry state of my homestead and to instead label it as “artsy.”

But then spring rears its happy, little, dandelion-head, alive with colors and scents that awaken the sleeping soul. Except my soul is usually in the middle of a really good dream where it’s getting a new kitchen makeover and spring’s smug, fresh, breezes just piss it off. Because every temperate-climate-based soul knows that for every pretty petal and newly cut lawn, there is someone behind the scenes, pulling the weeds and pushing the mower. There is nothing in the story books about the exhausted, smelly, middle-aged, grumpy lady with dirt on her knees, twigs stuck in her hair, and sweaty shins (which I found out is not a normal thing).

OK, I know I sound like a real whiner. And it’s true that I hate yard work with a vehemence usually reserved for things like hardboiled eggs with sticky shells that take most of the egg and leave you with just a mangled white sadly clinging to the stalwart yoke and for people who tell little kids Santa isn’t a thing. But I still do the yard work. I don’t try to get out of it. I don’t try to pawn it off on unsuspecting kids who think the lawnmower is super cool (I understand this is a time-honored, multi-generation tradition, but I’m still dealing with the betrayal issues, so I just can’t do it). And I don’t keen and wail while I sweep up trash that has blown over from the neighbor’s yard. To be honest, I didn’t even know they still made Hostess Ho-Ho’s or that anyone could buy them with a straight face.

I understand that home ownership is sort of like selling your soul to the devil. You want the pride of ownership? Then you are forever indebted to the sometimes-spoken neighborhood rules that grass be less than a foot tall and fences that fall into your neighbor’s yard during a snowstorm not be ignored. It’s just that this bargain has robbed me of the joy of a fresh spring rain, instead making me groan as I consider how much grosser it is to scoop wet dog poop. Plus, there’s still the inside of the house.

With warmer weather comes molting pets. Just as whenever a child laughs, an angel gets its wings, whenever I sneeze, a cat sheds its weight in fur. And the pets in our house outnumber the people. When they shed, the tumbleweeds outnumber all of us combined. So even if my house is clean hours before guests are to arrive (which it probably is not), I could run a constant vacuum, reaching every corner and pant leg, and there would still be pet hair drifting around, taunting me like a full bar when I’m chaperoning a school trip.

This year, I told everyone to come in their pajamas. I know they won’t (except for maybe the teenage boys who feel like every occasion calls for pajama pants) but I feel like it’s my way of letting them all know that this one’s going to be a little more casual than most. Just like when you sleep over someone’s house and you see them the next morning, all ruffled and pre-caffeinated, and know that you’ve reached a new level of intimacy, my Easter is going to be less pastel dresses, pearls, and floral centerpieces and more wrinkled tablecloths, thin layers of dust, and whatever-is-in-the-fruit-drawer in a pretty, most likely clean, bowl. It’s all about balance. Also, I’m hoping that if I serve them lots of booze, maybe they won’t even notice.

I’m all about pretty cocktails and even more about them when they look great with almost no effort! Mixthatdrink.com takes the prize this year with a Jack Honey and grapefruit recipe that couldn’t be easier.

1 ounce Jack Honey
3 ounces fresh squeezed red grapefruit juice
Put ice in a collins glass and pour in the ingredients.

Done. And it leaves you plenty of time to construct an elaborate story that blames the under-cabinet fur on the Easter Bunny.

Laurie Nigro

Laurie is the mother of two biological children and one husband and the caretaker of a menagerie of animals. Laurie is passionate about frugal, natural living. She was recognized by the L.I. Press Club with a “best humor column” award in 2016. Email Laurie