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After Work: Sound The Trumpets. Lower The Drawbridge.

…Two fresh bars of soap are necessary. Imagine the embarrassment of a stray hair embedded in the guest soap. I recently read that germs really don’t hang around on used soap bars but I’m not taking a chance…

Dona Gibbs gets a little nervous prior to the arrival of a house guest.

Dona's words add brightness to a day - even a Florida day. To sample more of her good-humoured columns please click on After Work in the menu on this page.

It’s another opening of another show.

That’s the anticipation I feel when houseguests are on their way. I always get butterflies fluttering around, clammy hands and a kind of gnawing anxiety that spurs the making of mental to-do lists. No matter how much time I allot I never seem to be able to check all the to-dos off the list.

Of course, clean sheets are a must. That’s basic. A spray of lavender is a calming touch.

Two fresh bars of soap are necessary. Imagine the embarrassment of a stray hair embedded in the guest soap. I recently read that germs really don’t hang around on used soap bars but I’m not taking a chance.

Are the towels fluffy enough? That can be a challenge when the water sometimes seems almost solid with minerals.

And speaking of water, South Florida drinking water can be an acquired taste. So ecological correctness will take a back seat for the next couple of days in the interests of keeping my guest well hydrated.

Should I warn her about the stream of white-footed ants that usually begin their march around the guestroom baseboard this time of year? Should I tell her that she might hear the early scritch-scritch of an armadillo on its breakfast seeking rounds?

What about our breakfasts? I’ve stocked up on enough fresh fruit that I could set up my own neighborhood green grocery. Fresh roasted coffee, check. A treat called Hawaiian coffee cake, check.

A good reading light? Hmm. Nope that’ll have to wait for another time.

Enough hangers in the closet? A wardrobe full.

Domestic divas recommend that hosts test-drive their guest rooms. Ever Enthusiastic Husband and I have slept in enough other beds away from home to second that idea. There are the guest rooms where two double beds have been hastily pushed together and although covered by an all-encompassing bottom sheet still have the middle division that becomes a three a.m. abyss.

We once spent two nights in a friend’s ski house in the Berkshire Mountains. Our hosts had thoughtfully left a carafe of water for us. At night a thin glaze of ice formed over the top. We risked frostbite just to go to the loo. Since that time, we’ve pointed out where the extra blankets are stored. And for the opposite end of the temperature spectrum, we give a little thermostat lecture.

No matter how good the friends, there’s always a ritualized little minuet that occurs when it’s time to turn in.

“Good night,” we waved cheerily. “See you in the morn.”

Yes, we really do say, “See you in the morn.” Come to think of it, that might be why the hectic flurry of winter-bound friends from north has slowed to trickle. After seven years of owning a house in Florida, we now get dribs and drabs of a few stalwart friends who understand that we are on the dull, stuffy side but mean well.

The other thing we always say but never really mean is, “Get up when you feel like it.”

We’d be far better off if we said, “We usually get up at eight but you can sleep later if you’d like.”

Leaving the getting up business open-ended means that I awaken with a start at six. I strain to hear soft padding around. Are our house guests wondering about coffee?

Down the hall, they are probably wide-awake. The unaccustomed bright morning sun has jolted them from their winter hibernation.

And they are wondering, “If we turn on the coffee maker, will we wake them up? What if the coffee maker spills over? What if the toaster short circuits? What if I accidentally start an electric fire? Where do they keep the fire extinguisher?”

Not really relaxing for guest or hosts.

All in all, Ever Enthusiastic Husband and I have been lucky in the guests’ lottery. Oh, one of our dear friends did manage to send the bed crashing to the floor. And a couple have stubbed out cigarettes in the potted plants on the patio. An older woman did attempt to play footsie with one of our son’s friends. And a dignified psychotherapist did have a little “lie-down” on the front lawn after several glasses of our famous sangria.

Anyway, the guest who’s on her way has all the attributes of the perfect houseguest. She’s told me precisely when she’s arriving and exactly when she’s departing. One of the three days she’s here, she arranged for a trip up the coast with a luncheon at the end.

And, she’s recently been on the host side of the equation and learned a few things.

One of her friends announced she was tooling in for a visit and she needed a “place to hang.” Now at our age when middle age is south of us, any friend who actually utters the words that she “needs a place to hang” is as suspect as a people who say, “See you in the morn”.

This erstwhile friend bustled into my friend’s apartment, struggling with a large grocery box.

“I bought meat,” she explained. “I thought you could have a few dinner parties while I’m here."

After stuffing the freezer, she then inflated a huge air mattress and announced she was ready for a good visit –a good long visit.

I’m looking forward to a good visit too – one short on time and long on laughs.


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