My parents loved to entertain. Many nights my dad would pull into the driveway and get out of his car, calling down the block, “Hey Bob, why don’t you and Dolores come down for a drink?” Within 20 minutes, Bob and Dolores would be sitting in our living room enjoying a Manhattan with my parents. My mom would pull us into the living room to say a polite “hello” to their guests. We’d have a quick, catch-up conversation about school or our summer and in hindsight, it turned out to be an amazing way to connect with these older friends of my parents.
The impromptu drink was a great way for my parents to stay connected to their neighbors. One hour, once a week with different neighbors kept them close to their friends and their community.
The biggest party of the year happened annually at our house. My folks were known for throwing the best New Year’s Eve parties. These were great because not only were the adults invited, but each of us five kids got to invite our own friends. It was my mother’s way of keeping us home and off the streets on this drinking holiday but it turned into a fun, crazy event we all looked forward to once a year.
No one seemed to mind talking with someone twenty years older or younger than themselves and it was amazing how everyone mingled and connected, regardless of their age.
I grew up in a musical family. My oldest brother, who’s an incredibly gifted musician, was the focal point. He and my dad, who played the ukulele, would belt out songs by Sinatra, The Beatles and any request a guest might make. My mom joined in, playing her piano, and my sisters and other brother and I would sing along. My brother’s friends came with their instruments knowing the party would turn into a big jam session and before you knew it, every guest was singing. Age was no barrier to singing a solo and even the most timid person was pulled into the music belting out their favorite song.
The parties continued with my parents even after they moved out of their big house. My dad continued to ask neighbors in their Florida condo community down for the impromptu drink. When my sister and I were in college, they’d take their parties on the road driving 20-some hours up from Florida just to host a tailgate party before each football game. My mom brought the lasagna, my dad his ukulele. Complete strangers walking by our car would stop and belt out a song and my most skeptic friends found joy in singing a song with my dad. Once again, parents and kids came together over music and we all saw each other as people, not just “that old guy” or “that college kid.”
I guess that’s what stuck with me the most. Seeing these people who were so much older than me as people and not just my parents’ friends. I saw them as funny, smart and interesting. It gave me insight and taught me we all have distinct personalities and a history worth learning about regardless of our age.
So this year I challenge you to break from your segregated guest list when hosting your holiday party. Invite your kids and have them invite some of their friends.
Make these parties an opportunity to connect, face-to-face, with different generations. Show your children they can talk with someone who isn’t their age and that these connections are real, not superficial, “photo-perfect” social connections. In mixing our generations at parties, we see each other in comfortable, casual settings that are less intimidating. I guarantee the next day your child might just say something like, “I like Mr. Jones. He’s actually a pretty cool guy.” Who knows — you may say the same thing about one of your kid’s friends!
– Germaine Caprio, MAJAMAS EARTH Company Owner & Designer