September kicks off celebration season

Published 11:03 am Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The first day of Autumn is less than two weeks away. While it’s not quite time to unpack the heavy clothes, we are getting glimpses of fall’s rich bounty. Every year at this time, grass gets greener and plants stand just a little bit taller. I love September. It makes me want to throw a party.

And I have plenty of motivation to do so. Two of my sisters, both of my daughters and one sister in law were all born in September. Another sister (Carol) celebrates her big day in October. My husband and our best friends celebrate theirs in November. Close on the heels of all these birthdays are Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even if you aren’t a football junkie, fall offers good reason to celebrate.

There is nothing that makes me want to “fluff” my house like giving a party. And there is nothing like house fluffing to remind me of my late friend, Shelly. Shelly invented the term and practiced it often. In her short time on this earth, Shelly gave more parties than anyone I know.

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She had full time help keeping her house clean and orderly, but the job of “fluffing” was all hers. A few hours before the festivities were scheduled to begin, she would meander through her house with an eye for detail. An overstuffed chair was moved to make room for the food. A lamp was added for ambience. She straightened pillows, rearranged seating and lit candles as she checked every room.

She used to spend so much time getting her house ready, she ran late getting herself dressed. Any friends who arrived on time learned not to expect her greeting at the front door. Shelly was more likely to be upstairs in her dressing room applying lipstick and mascara when the doorbell started ringing. Extensive primping was one of her idiosyncrasies, but I never heard anyone complain. She was naturally gorgeous but she also worked at it. Like the late movie star Loretta Young who swirled her way through the door at the start of her show, Shelly loved to make an entrance.

Her ability to make things beautiful inspires me to this day. I think of her as I line our front walkway with pots of bright yellow mums in white clay pots. While Shelly taught me about esthetics, my sister Kathy shared something of a more practical nature. “Never spend time cleaning anything that someone riding through your house on a fast horse will not notice.” I was a newlywed when my older and wiser sister shared that nugget of truth. At the time, I was scrubbing the baseboards of our apartment a few hours before guests were expected for dinner.

It’s hard to believe I was ever that much of a clean freak. Polishing silver was another of my party preps since that was about the only time we dragged out the good stuff. Back then, setting the table with china and flatware made me happy. Now, paper plates make me happier. Hauling a few hefty bags to the garage can in the garage instead of standing at the sink ‘till midnight makes me happiest of all.

So what have I learned about the practice of partying? Throw them often and keep them simple. Whenever possible enlist the help of friends. The party for Mary’s birthday this weekend will be served up by five of her loved ones. A couple of us are in charge of the food, somebody else will ice down the drinks, and then there’s music, decorations and cake to consider. Many hands make light work. That’s something else that’s good to keep in mind when throwing a party.

As festivities draw near, I will breathe a silent thank you to my precious friend, Shelly, who smiles on me as I light candles and re-arrange chairs. And to my sister Kathy, who still reminds me to serve good wine and dim the lights. Should I take a moment before the party to sweep the front porch? I think so. There’s a good chance some guests will have to wait there while the hostess put on a little more lipstick.

Donia Caspersen Crouch was born and raised in Southeast Texas and now lives in Austin. For more “Stories of Hope and Humor,” contact Crouch at  <>