Every October I remember Nanny, my maternal grandma. Partly because October was her birthday month and partly because it’s when we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving—and I tend to get a tad mushy and nostalgic. It makes me wish I could have just one more cup of tea with Nanny in a floral bone china teacup. And ask how her generation did hospitality so effortlessly and so well…
To be honest, I would ask her about everything: the war, about her early life in London, England, about apple pies and ballroom dancing and Grandad. My author self longs to write a book all about her. She was fascinating in her own quiet way. You see, my sweet Nanny suffered from agoraphobia and never ventured outside her house alone… yet my fondest memories are of INSIDE her home.
It wasn’t fancy, it was cozy. Always warm in atmosphere and temperature. Cluttered with a myriad of tangible memories but always room to sit on the floral sofa. The kettle seemed to be permanently on and there were always snacks on hand. Homey. Comfortable. Safe.
“I want to have a simple table spread with abundant love. To offer an atmosphere of joy and peace.” Kristin Schell
How did she do that? How did all our grandmas and great-grandmas manage to pull off hospitality with such apparent ease and minimal worry? And when did we turn it all on its head and overcomplicate the joy of hospitality from simple to stressful and natural to nightmarish? I have a few ideas (and I’m SO preaching to myself here):
- They didn’t stand on ceremony.
I can’t imagine neighbors simply popping in to borrow a cup of sugar or stopping by to share a pot of tea in the middle of the afternoon just for the fun of it. Today, we feel the need to text or email (heaven forbid we should actually talk on the phone) to sync calendars and schedule a meal with loved ones at our house. It’s formal. Starchy. And we kinda prefer doing coffee at a coffee shop to be on neutral ground…
- The door was open.
Always. Literally. Like wide open and never locked. The welcome was extended to anyone, anytime. Admittedly, we live in a very different day and age where we need to lock our doors, but be honest—does anyone else freeze when the doorbell chimes unexpectedly? Who on earth could that be? Someone just stopping by uninvited? And then we exhale—it’s just the Amazon delivery guy! Does our hospitality only apply within allocated, convenient hours?
- There was always tea and cake.
Or coffee and cookies. Or cheese and crackers with apple slices. Or plums from the tree in the backyard. I wonder if they were more resourceful with their experience of wartime rations. They didn’t need Google or Pinterest to make something delicious with 3 ingredients in their little fridge when they had tried-and-trusted tactile recipe books passed down through generations. Why do we make excuses to not have people over because we haven’t been to Costco or our espresso machine is on the fritz?
- They stopped and listened.
Undivided attention. They always wanted to know all the details. About everyone and everything. They called it “conversation”. This was way before social media—now we simply scroll to see how our people are doing. No, the grandmas made us feel like we were the most important person in the world. They offered a listening ear and gave advice freely. They cared and weren’t afraid to show it. They were our mentors. Who are we mentoring right now?
“So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways.” John 13:34
Love. At the end of the day, hospitality this week or a hundred years ago is all about abundant love.
Nanny always made me feel loved. Like the simple feast of cheese and crackers was especially for me. As she bustled about her tiny kitchen in her frilly apron with pockets, I was loved and safe and comfortable.
That’s my prayer today as I attempt to show hospitality in any way I can. That my guest, my friend, might feel loved and safe and comfortable.
I hope I have inherited even a smattering of the beautiful gift of hospitality passed on from Nanny…
Thankfully, it’s never too late for us to put it into practice. Friend, let’s be spontaneous, have an open heart along with our open door, put the kettle on, and be a listening ear.
Who comes to mind when you think of sweet hospitality memories? Let me know in the comments below and we ‘ll channel some simple hospitality truths learned from yesteryear…
P.S. If you’d like some goodies to share with guests, I send out a tried-and-trusted RECIPE every month in my newsletter, “Laura’s Letters”. You can sign up HERE! You’ll also get a free book review PDF “20 FICTION FAVORITES” and you’ll be entered into a monthly giveaway!
Linking up with some fabulous encouragers. Check them out: