My across-the-road neighbor and I both just bought new mattresses for our guest bedrooms. A garden variety coincidence, yes. But it brought to mind the fact that spring in the northeast is the beginning of “guest season,” especially here in the beautiful mid-Hudson valley. No more worries about snow-travel; the draw of the mountains and river; ramped up local event schedules, and public occasions like Easter and the Fourth of July. So I expect family and friends will be coming soon, and how I love it!
My earliest memory of “company”goes back to childhood when, for a brief time, my maternal grandfather occupied my parents’ bedroom, while they slept in a small alcove off the kitchen of our Bronx apartment. Besides moving my parents to the room off the kitchen, all sorts of special arrangements were in place. We had to tiptoe and whisper because grandpa was always trying to sleep. I had to close my bedroom door if I wanted to listen to the Victrola, and I was sent next door when aunt Gertie, who was a nurse, came.
Grandpa went straight from our house to the cemetery. No one spelled it out, but I knew that his stay was so he had a safe and quiet place to fade out and die. We were hospice. And though the temporary arrangements may have been confining, I remember feeling it was important, an honor having him there, and I was proud he had chosen to do his dying with us.
No one else “stayed over” until I was in high school, and then, since I went to Music & Art, which was in Manhattan and drew kids from all over the five boroughs, there were plenty of late night study sleep-overs; the twin bed (which had once been my older, married sister’s) was occupied by a parade of friends. So I experienced all the joys and intimacies of living together and none of the drudgeries of everyday life.
My own kids went to local schools, so there was little need for sleep-overs, and not much room for them in our Queens apartment. (Except for a close call one Passover when a mischievous spring snowstorm crept up and barricaded us in, but by the time the meal was over, the snow had melted, and our company went home after all, and –relieved and disappointed — I put away all the blankets and pillows.)
Then, we moved to the country and we have made up for lost time. With extra bedrooms, there is no reason for guests to go home. Sometimes we twist arms to make them stay! We have houseguests all the time, and no one has overstayed a welcome yet. Having the extra room is logistical for holiday travelers, and also just when we’re in the mood for fun, or someone needs to talk, or there’s a big turkey in the freezer or something’s doing in town. One friend made up a sign, P’s Room, which she put up when she arrived. Another friend, happily, comes often enough so that I let her know when we bought a new comforter for “her” room.
Practically speaking, if it weren’t for company I might never tidy up, my sheets wouldn’t match, and I would probably not have replaced the set of dishes with all the chips. I wouldn’t have taken that day trip to Saratoga without the guest who wanted to go, or tried that new recipe I cut out of the Times last May, or gone to that new local restaurant I heard about.
I see where this is going. I risk revealing my inner Pollyanna with all this sweet talk. I suppose I could tart it up a little with some anecdote about a disastrous visitor, or say that thing about guests who stay too long being like stale fish? But sometimes a blog just goes where it wants to go. And honestly, it is a blessing to be able to offer something as essential as shelter, and to know my house can be a port in a storm, literally – if the rain floods the roads, or a spring snow blows the trees across the path – as well as figuratively, when someone needs a place to rest, or to cry, or, like Grandpa, to die.