It’s summertime. And with summertime comes traveling. And with traveling comes the expected, and even some unexpected houseguests. Growing up, we had a flow of people popping in pretty much most of the year.
My mother was the epitome of grand hostessing. She laid out the welcome mat on many occasions, especially where my girlfriends were concerned. One pal came over in a panic asking if I’d help her learn to insert a particular feminine hygiene product. She ended up staying three days. I remember being locked in the bathroom and listening to pounding from the other side of the door. Having only two bathrooms with nine siblings, one or four of them were usually in need of relieving themselves. We kept hearing, “What are you two doing in there?” I almost said that I was building a dam with certain impervious material to prevent the downstream into the Red Sea. But I overheard my mother bypassing that graphic delivery telling the knockers, “Use the other bathroom and leave them alone.” Then she yelled through the door, “Girls, make it snappy!” But I figured she of all people should know that plugging up holes can be quite the time consuming and tedious task.
Three other girls came by that week and camped out with our brood. My Mother Hubbard always smiled warmly and let them in. She scrounged food for a dozen anyway, including the dog and cat and hamsters. So a few more mouths made no difference. She didn’t store surgical masks to keep away germs associated with guests who occupied our touching and breathing space. She just served herself fermented beverages the size of swimming pools, and activated an isopropyl plan for everyone else. I’m surprised my mother didn’t stipulate some other stiff rules for overnighters. Like cleaning the toilets, so I wouldn’t have to.
My boyfriends son, daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters moved in for a month until their new place becomes vacant. So my funnyman decided to formulate his own set of house rules.
Papa’s Ten Commandments
1. No laughing or crying while Papa is present, unless the laughing is from Papa’s jokes, which requires mandatory cackling.
2. No television unless the program is approved by a higher authority (Papa).
3. No criticizing the expired dates on kitchen food.
4. The person you call “Mom” is banned from the kitchen, unless she is doing dishes, scrubbing floors, or cleaning out last year’s leftovers from the fridge.
5. All showers & baths should be taken in the back yard, or front yard if preferred.
6. The patio is Papa’s domain, so access is denied to all.
7. From now on, Papa shall be referred to as Handsome, Good-Looking, or Hot Stuff.
8. The outdoor bathroom known as Elvis’s loo (a velvet Elvis hangs above the toilet) is designated for the girls and should stay clean and tidy at all times. Spider webs are to be kept intact since it’s breeding season.
9. Handsome’s home office is strictly off limits. You aren’t even allowed to look inside of it.
10. Your dad will no longer be referred to as Boy, Kunta Kinte or Hey You. From this day forward, you will call him Father, or Great Leader. More rules may apply throughout your stay, and solely decided by Hot Stuff.
Me? I’m a fervid loyalist to houseguests. If their departure is on a Sunday, I like to faithfully start reminding them on Friday afternoon. I’ve even gone to Home Steepo and looked into a guest house addition. But it wouldn’t be financially intelligent of me to have that much privacy. Sacrifices are usually made on my part, like having to share my vodka, along with everything else. Some people like to be anally active in cleaning every square inch of home space before callers arrive. While others like delaying it till the next Olympics, or never. Typically, women guests are hesitant in doing dishes when it may wreck their professional manicures, while men can’t if they are practicing their putting with the homeowners glass goblets or dominating the remote control. This delightful welcome is comparable to the Battle of Balaklava, when ignorance of the Allies failed to gain an ultimate victory.
In my own process of pre-houseguest sanitizing, the first order of business is to snuff out any stray varmints whose colonies are very talented in tainting the contents in every cabinet. Which would minimize any risk of abrasions to my hearing membranes if visitors find a bug in their bed and scream in horror. I get a lot of exercise scrubbing, and probably burn a thousand calories. Two thousand if visitors or my Molly Maid had the sniffles. This last cleaning, I went to my penny jar to tip the housekeeper. So I found it peculiar when she mumbled words that sounded like, “Keep the change you filthy animal.”
Being a houseguest has its drawbacks as well. I salute my friends who give me a guest pass, opening their doors regularly to me. But my dietary aspirations don’t include tofu. Nor do I like dogs sniffing through my suitcase, or a cats hacked up hairballs clinging to my clothes. I did apologize for the exasperation I may have created when I left bloodstains on one friends new towel after slicing myself severely with that sharp razor from her bathroom. Then unbeknownst to me, I left more hues of hemoglobin on her white couch cushions and several droplets on the rug. I liked to think she wasn’t initiating some sort of evolvement from being exceptionally hospitable to being scathingly hostile, with the urge to kick me to kingdom come. I advised her on a good soaking solution, and tried telling her to snag some furniture from Goodwill when company comes. I know my furniture is far too nice to have creases planted in them let alone blood stains. Because when it comes to being a guest, I do whatever I can to help out.
(Posts can be seen in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)