A good friend has invited my entire extended family to her house for a Christmas Eve open house. She sent along the following rules for the occasion:
- Show up.
- Under no circumstances dress up.
- Stay as long or as little as you like.
- Do not even think about a hostess gift.
This reminded me of an overnight visit to my friend Simon’s father’s house on the shore of Lake Huron about 20 years ago. Simon’s Mom had died a few years before, and I was driving Simon home to spend Christmas with his father, and spending the night before continuing on to my own family.
Being naturally socially ill at ease at the best of times, never having met Simon’s father before, and knowing him only as a public school teacher, a Mason, and through Simon’s stories about growing up, I was a little intimidated by the prospect. Even more so when he announced that “there are three hard and fast rules about staying in my house.” I shuddered: no gambling, no swearing, no rock and roll — something like that — was what I imagined was about to be presented.
“First,” he said, “you can sleep in as late as you like, and nobody will bother you.”
“Second, you can spend as much time in the bathroom as you like, and nobody will bother you with a knock on the door.”
“Third, you can eat as much or as little as you like for supper, and nobody will bother you about it.”
We had a great night: I was put completely at ease right from the bat, and we all got along like gangbusters. Smart man.