Years ago my roommate, Charlotte, and I forgot what time a party started. We put 7:00 on the evite, but had convinced ourselves that it started at 7:30. So when 7:00 rolled around I was out picking up the BBQ and Charlotte was wrapping up the side dishes when the first guests arrived. "How embarrassing," we thought, "to be so unprepared!"

And yet, nothing quite beats answering the door wet from the shower, one towel on my head, one wrapped around everything else, wet footprints trailing me, glasses fogged up, chairs stacked on top of the dining table, and welcoming my guests--sailors from the U.S. Navy--by saying "I'm going to open the door and walk away, and then you can come in."

Let's back up.

Last year we joined our friends Lou Anne and Scott when they hosted some sailors from a Destroyer attached to the USS Nimitz. Whenever there is a US ship in port in Singapore, the American Association offers "home hospitality" to any servicemen or women aboard who would like to come ashore and have dinner with American hosts. We had a great time and definitely wanted to do it again.

On Monday when we got a forwarded email that the supercarrier USS George Washington was coming to Singapore, we jumped at the chance to host. It was short notice, but we buckled down this week and got everything ready.

Kyle fried chicken and made mashed potatoes on Thursday night. I made marinated cucumbers Friday afternoon. I'd just finished one last pass with the vacuum and dust rag (chairs on the table so I could reach the whole floor). I had nuts and some snacks on the coffee table still in their plastic bags ready to be opened just before the guests arrived. Our friends Jack and Yula agreed to help us host and bring dessert. I needed to put the ham in the oven at 5:30; Kyle would be home about ten after 6 and take out the recycling and turn the air conditioner on. I needed to quickly sautee the already cleaned and cut green beans and tomatoes with garlic and olive oil, and the sailors would arrive at 7.

At 5:20 I preheated the oven and hopped in the shower. At 5:35 I stepped out of the shower. Right on time. A couple of haphazard towels would let me duck in the kitchen to pop the ham in the oven, and then I would be ready by the time Kyle got home to put the finishing touches on everything.

I was tenting the ham with aluminum foil when the doorbell rang. Ignore it.

Stick the ham in the oven. It rings again.

I realize that the front door is still open because I haven't turned the air conditioner on yet. If I sneak back in the bedroom, whoever is at the door will surely see me. It rings again.

It's probably someone from the Singapore Cancer Society or one of the local schools doing a door to door fundraiser. They've clearly heard the oven or refrigerator opening and closing. They know I'm in here.

I come out of the kitchen and stand off to the side of the door.

"Um, yes? What do you need?"

"Is this Kyle and Alli's house?"

I peek into the hallway through the gate. Yep, Americans. With our emailed directions in hand.

Here are two young enlisted sailors, representing the largest Navy in the world, manning a ship with a crew of 5500 men and women, powered by two nuclear reactors and accommodating 80 aircraft! For six months at a time they sleep in rooms with 30+ beds-- each a 6'x3' bunk they can call their own. They've come to Singapore and been told that an American family would like to have them over for dinner. What do you do at that point?

Welcome to our home. Thank you for your service to our country. Please excuse the fact that I'm naked.

Jack, Yula, and the other pair of sailors arrived on time. About halfway through dinner one of the early arrivers realized that his civilian, non-uniform watch hadn't been updated to the correct timezone. We had pretty good food (the green beans and tomatoes suffered from the surprise start), excellent dessert, a whole range of tropical fruits to try, and wonderful company.