January 21, 2020

What We Do When Expecting Visitors

Illustration by George Danby

Illustration by George Danby

By John F. Chisholm •

My wife’s cousin, Sam Yates, his wife Heidi and daughter Samantha visited this past weekend.  They’re very nice.  It was great to see them.

“One thing,” my wife mentioned the preceding Friday night, “we have to clean house before they get here.”

I thought briefly about the innumerable things I’d much rather do Saturday but acquiesced.  “Yeah.”  I chewed my lip but nodded for good measure.   When the demand for anything is that obvious, there’s no viable argument against it.

We started right after breakfast on Saturday before either of us could think better of it.

Wendy tackled the refrigerator.  That showed remarkable courage.  I reflected that  medical training is important for a job like that.  How else does anyone recognize what grows in there?  Or know how to kill it, once found?

She pulled on rubber gloves and grabbed the Pine Sol.

I stayed within earshot just in case, attacking the entranceway.

She showed me some cottage cheese.  At least that’s what the label read.  It was more than a year past the printed expiration date.  But it wasn’t dead.  Far from it.  I’m guessing that another week of gestation would have been more than sufficient to elect another species to world domination.  Yeah.  It was that close.  If it had ever escaped that container ―

Some American cheese had taken on life of its own, too.   But the extra species identification prize came from the last of the Christmas fruit cake.  It was hiding behind a stockpile of last fall’s desiccated oranges, Civil War shot welded into a memorial arsenal by mold.

Meanwhile the mud room was living up to its name.  I hosed off the welcome mat only aware after the fact that I should have done the job in the garden.  Why waste that much topsoil, fertilizer and humus?  In addition, I swear that the hall closet held jackets ― flattened silhouettes of lithofied fabric, stored way, way in back ― from when our kids were in grammar school.

I threw out the lot and a great deal more.   What were we thinking when we saved them?

In fact Wendy and I cleaned all morning and a great chunk of the afternoon, too.  (Sam and his family arrived a little after three.)

Finally exhausted, we collapsed at the kitchen table.  Isn’t it strange?  We don’t think of ourselves as slobs.  I certainly don’t like the thought.  All the same, either of us would have been horrified to stay in a home with such shoddy housekeeping.  How is it easier to look the other way when it’s your own dirt?

The only explanation I can find, grime creeps up on you when you’re busy with other things.

We sat amazed and admired the fruits of our labors.  The woodstove was clean and polished.  The refrigerator gleamed.  Even the baseboard heaters were vacuumed and mopped.

I glanced at my wife.  “I wouldn’t have believed that five hundred dogs could shed as much as our eight.  I filled three vacuum bags ― just in the hallway.”

“Tell me about it,” Wendy replied, groaning. “You should have seen under the refrigerator if you thought the interior was bad.”

“Looks nice now though, doesn’t it?”

We both nodded in silent agreement before turning to each other and admitting the obvious aloud and in unison:  “We really should have guests more often.”