“We dare not trust our wit for making our house pleasant to our friend, so we buy ice cream.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
This holiday weekend, Penny and I had guests. It’s not something we’re very experienced with, and it’s probably not even right to call them guests, since we’re related to them and everything, but having her dad and his wife Jan stay over was an adventure for us.
Most evenings, you see, we do more or less what we’re doing right now: sit quietly in the living room, listen to music and read books or tap on our laptops. Which we enjoy.
But this white-knuckle, thrill-a-minute lifestyle can be, how shall I put it, less than breathtaking to newcomers. Friday night, when Jack and Jan first arrived, I helped bring in their bags, administered the honorary home tour (“…And that’s our dining room. We, uh, eat stuff there”) and then, basically, just stood around staring at the carpet.
I believe at one point someone opened the doors of the entertainment center and asked if we could watch television, to which I must have replied, “Well, we can watch *the* television, but it just kind of sits there, since we don’t have cable. Or an antenna.”
Our movies, which are all we have the TV for, are of course all Weird and Unpopular, which Lope and I momentarily considered adopting as our respective nicknames.
“So who wants to watch a documentary about long-haul truck drivers? Big Rig? Anyone? How about a contemporary musical about a busker and an immigrant and their eventful week in Dublin? Any takers? Here, I’ve got… the films of Charles and Ray Eames. It includes ‘Powers of Ten,’ which is just spellbinding I assure you, as well as an in depth tour of their studios in Venice, California after they, uh, died…”
So we did about what you’d figure: sat around listening to music and staring at the carpet. The weave is just exquisite.
It’s a shame, too, because they really seem to enjoy about the same basic activities we do: reading books and browsing the internet. Only I couldn’t remember the password to get their laptop on our network. Dang.
I started to remember, repeatedly, why my friend Brad used to refer to our house as a cabin in the suburbs. There’s just nothing to do, unless you’re us.
To make matters worse, we’re energy-efficient. Which is to say anal. And that trait just doesn’t jibe with houseguests. Even though we’ve only been here a couple months, we’re already established in our patterns, and seeing someone, oh, leave the refrigerator open while walking across the kitchen to pour milk on her cereal, or running the hairdryer for the duration of his shower so that the bathroom will get nice and warm… that stuff’s a little jarring to us.
We’re also used to a container of ice cream lasting maybe a month or so. But people have different ideas of how much “some” ice cream constitutes, you know? One person’s two scoops nestled in a coffee mug is another’s half-gallon piled in a cereal bowl.
When I reached for the new carton of Fudge Tracks, purchased only a couple days ago, and found it half-demolished, I must admit: I was impressed. Penny’s stepmom can eat ice cream like gangbusters. The following day, she even bragged about it: “Oh, you should see me when I’m really hungry.”
It’s all about making adjustments. And that’s something neither Penny nor I is particularly good at quite yet. But we’d better brush up, quick, right?
And that’s why I think maybe it’s a good thing we got the opportunity to share our home — and our dead-boring lifestyle — with some other folks for a change. Soon we’ll have a permanent newcomer here on the scene. And though I don’t expect she’ll be bogarting the desserts for a few years, she’s bound to shake things up in lots of other ways.
So thanks, Jack and Jan. You endured three days in the cabin. Braved the vigilant supervision of the enviro-nazis. Tolerated — or attempted to tolerate — the snowfall you moved to South Carolina expressly to avoid.
And, yes, ate all the ice cream we had on the premises. Something tells me it’s a good warmup.
A few selected highlights from the weekend:
Walking in the woods with Jack and Vince and Penny, and spotting a family taking a group-shot with a timer and tripod and everything on a log running across the stream.
Seeing a little girl out in a bright pink hooded coat on that same walk, and happily noting her rosy cheeks and smiling, contented look. One of my first “I want one of those” moments.
Visiting “Our Father’s House,” a local mission/thrift store, with Penny’s aunt Carol and her cousin Julie, who came down from Michigan for dinner, and finding it closed for the holidays. We forged on to “Home Sweet Home,” another area junk joint, and I got to see Julie gasp upon finding a painting by an artist whose work her friend collects. It was only $18 and I talked them down to $15 on the basis of an ill-fitting frame and missing documentation on the back. Go me.
Being greeted by name at the coffeehouse/bakery in the village near our house. I knew that Aaron behind the counter ran the place, but I didn’t know he knew me yet.
Reheating my mom’s vegetarian stuffing and linguini with clam sauce for my dinner last night, along with spaghetti with marinara and boca crumbles for Penny, Jan and Jack, and getting credit for cooking.
Leftover pumpkin pie from Mom’s Thanksgiving dinner. And cherry. And strawberry-orange.
Watching the BBC Planet Earth series on DVD, and all being so enraptured by snow leopards and migrating nautiluses that we all forgot the actual snow outside and the 12-hour migration awaiting Jack and Jan and just marveled at nature together.
And lastly, changing a diaper — yes, changing a diaper — for the first time ever. I had plenty of supervision from Penny’s sister Lauren, who is by now a certified pro, and an equal amount of laughter from Jan and others in the room. Whatever. I thought it went pretty smoothly, and I’m feeling a lot readier for February now. That’s invaluable.