It’s off-season, so I figured I’d tackle the Aspen-wide epidemic of playing host to out-of-town guests. Instead of off-season, it should be called host-your-family-season. Along with all of its other goodies, off-season gives us parents, in-laws, siblings, cousins and long, lost friends.
Why? Well, of course, Aspen’s very own locals have talked up and given the off-season its appeal and mystique. It’s quiet. It’s beautiful. And don’t forget, kind of affordable too. Ask a local when he or she got married and chances are the shoulder season was involved in the planning.
Many people here in Aspen are transplants, so by default we are ambassadors of Aspen and bring a new guest or two to visit every year. I’m sure tourism officials have never quite thought of it in that way, but we really are a community working together to keep this little snow globe town festive and afloat.
With being a transplant, one is bound to host guests in their own home or just minutes away. Most certainly we will host our parents. I feel like I need to keep a Google calendar of parental visits and share it with my friends.
“I’d love to call so-and-so and invite her too, but I know that she’s blocked out from the 10th through the 18th, which coincides with my block from the 17th to the 24th. Guess we’ll have to do something after the 25th? Or is that when your niece arrives?”
Just recently my in-laws came to town. A friend asked me to lunch on the beginning of the 10-day visit and my text reply was as if I was heading into the jungle or combat for a few days.
“Parents arrive today. Talk to you soon.”
What? I was simply trying to keep my schedule free. I actually commented on the fact that I hadn’t received a single phone call one day when my husband reminded me that we sent out the parental scheduling block to most of our friends.
It’s not that you can’t see friends or that we can’t merge friends with family, but if someone comes to visit from other states or even a few hours away, you make time for them.
It’s exciting and hopeful at the beginning. “Yay! Welcome! I wish we had a spare bedroom so that you could stay with us! What would you like to do? I thought we’d go out for dinner first and then …”
This is how it starts. Then somewhere in the middle you wonder if they like Mexican and if they don’t, what your other reasonable options are. Do they prefer a more casual atmosphere? Aspen casual is something only locals and part-time homeowners truly understand. Can you take them to sushi? What if our mac ‘n’ cheese is too fancy-pants for them? What are you supposed to do from meal to meal?
Then your guests start asking you what you want to do. None of your responses are truly honest because what you want to do isn’t a possible group option. As you daydream about a four-hour bike ride that would have most guests crying within the first 20 minutes, you suggest a ride to the top of the gondola.
I find it most comical when hosting parents. These are the people who raised us. They are mature adults with years of life experience, far more than their children. And yet, letting them wander through Aspen somehow makes me feel uneasy. What if they get lost? Or answer their phone at the register at Carl’s? Or appear as a … tourist?
I know I’m not alone on this one. I’ve heard friends say, “I don’t know what they’re doing all day,” with angst in their voices. It would be easier if we could stick name tags on our parents that say “Mom of Beth, please point in the right direction. She’s cool.”
There’s just something about letting them go out into that big world all by themselves that’s a little terrifying. I just hope I gave good instructions on how to use the roundabout.
I wish we could host visitors more often and then after a long week I think, “Hey a one-bedroom isn’t half bad.” It’s like built-in visitors insurance. Mark my words, housing authority, that will be the only time I utter that statement.
There is a visitor for every season in Aspen. The most “daring” of guests visit in the winter, and guests with kids take advantage of summer break. And if it weren’t for a solid contingent of locals’ family, Aspen’s off-season might not be the same. Have fun with your guests and don’t forget this is the last weekend to take them up the gondola.
Beth is full from so many family dinners. Share your thoughts with her at firstname.lastname@example.org