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Be Our Guest?

by Joan L. Cannon


Do you ever wonder how the other half — or at least, others than you — live?

If you're like me, (cowardly) there are only some others you really want to know about. I've always felt Dickens and the newspapers provide all I can bear of the really awful conditions which most of the world seems to be forced to inhabit. Well, the other evening, we were offered a chance (admittedly not the first one) to see the abode and sample some of the lifestyle of a couple of those special people. It gave me pause.

We had a really lovely time, so don't misunderstand these remarks. It's just that I can't resist trying to relive some of it in the hope of learning how to do it.

To begin with, we all know the housewife who somehow manages to keep her home in a state that would require not the slightest adjustment from a stylist for Architectural Digest or Better Homes. Maybe she's not your best friend, and maybe, like me, you envy her talents. I just wish I could pick up the knack.

The apartment we visited is one of those abodes. Not only is there not so much as a crushed cushion on the sofa, every ornament on side tables is perfectly positioned, every fold in the "window treatments" is exactly the width of every other one. There is not a single newspaper or magazine (except for the TV schedule) in view in any of the four rooms we were shown, in fact, the only book I noticed ornamented the exact center of the coffee table and was a collection of botanical prints in an oversize binding, dust jacket pristine. Look at any furniture grouping, and you realize it's artistic, pretty, even beckoning. And the kitchen counters? No coffee maker, no canisters, not a dropped potholder, just pristine gray granite.

Already intimidated, I was prepared to try to stifle my natural garrulity, and take it all in for future reference. I've always aspired to improve the general ambience of our home in the face of both my husband's and my tendency to littering and slovenliness.

The conversation and the other guests were delightful, I rattled on shamelessly despite my determination not to, and the food was delicious.

We came contentedly back to our rumpled domicile which is replete with cat hair and odd bits of broken leaves off our dog's feet, where our coffee table is hidden under magazines and half-finished newspaper articles, the couch cushions not plumped after the last time we sat there, and the curtains not even drawn.

I reflected that it would probably take me at least half an hour of clearing my husband's paperwork off the dining table and tidying the rest of what any casual visitor would be exposed to before I could comfortably let another person in, let alone offer them a meal. Just looking around our home was embarrassing.

So the question arises: Is there an acceptable excuse for this disorder? I surely hope so, because here I sit right now, writing about it when I should obviously be clearing it up.

We, even though we're long retired, work here. Sure, we live here too, but we write and paint and manage our volunteer jobs where it's comfortable to do what we want to do. I hope the occasional drop-in can forgive the mess. I remind myself that "home" is the operative word.

Our bed goes unmade only on the day I change the sheets. You should know that when we entertain, we do clear up and tidy. Of course, that means when we stack the magazines and newspapers, we don't get them out of sight. How could we?

This is a small retirement cottage. We straighten the picture frames after the cleaners have been in every other week, keep the guest room neat and the beds changed, and I love a blossom from our flower bed in a vase.

We'd love to offer a cup of tea or a drink, if you have the courage to enter where this half lives.

Joan L. Cannon likes to use her middle initial because so few of her maiden namesakes are left anywhere (Huguenot LaPrades). She's a retired teacher, retail manager, and part-time handy-person for the selectmen of her Connecticut town, library trustee, and aspiring writer.

From childhood there's been toss-ups for her avocations among reading, riding horses, painting, writing, and homemaking. Now she's happy to be mostly retired even from that since moving to a life care community with her husband of over half a century. Retired turns out to be a relative term, however, since there's always so much labor needed for so many good causes.

Email Joan: jlcannon (at)

©2008 Joan L. Cannon for
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