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" … genuine affection might be the only good reason to ever host any houseguest."

A buzz overtakes the place a week before they arrive as if the isolation pod can't quite believe it's about to become a social hub. CumpKnee's coming. The Villa will receive a thorough scrubbing, which means that I will scrub and vacuum and The Muse will dust, I long ago having lost my belief in particles too tiny for visual verification. I crawl the kitchen, utility room, and the garage hall floors, scrubbing as I go. I'll displace chairs and tables to dust mop and vacuum up all those odd bits the houseplants exhale all over the place. I unmake beds and the washing machine finally puts in a full day's work. I remake beds with fresh-smelling linen and rework the guest bath (my bath when no guests are around) and move my detritus into The Muse's bath, a so-called Master Bath within which I am not entirely welcome. I scrutinize the larder and perform an unusually picky shop, selecting stuff necessary to satisfy our guest's stated preferences.

I've become unembarrassed to ask after a prospective guest's preferences and prejudices.
People construct their existences around what they cannot abide and no guest appreciates their host for performing a perfect bellyflop for breakfast as he presents a sizzling something disallowed by their guest's lifestyle. (I once served stuffed pork chops to a student visiting from Istanbul, an embarrassment which drove me to quickly defrost and roast a humbled replacement chicken.) Coffee or tea? Beer, wine, or fuzzy water? Milk/No Milk and what percent? Ground nut sensitivity? The Muse's sister-in-law is allergic to olive oil. Her sister, to shellfish. It's a thousand defensive questions which might seem more thoughtful than avoiding. No host wants to provide grounds for a lawsuit or a 911 call.

Hosting a houseguest opens the old monastery to public scrutiny, so I hold a set of necessaries which I must observe, rather like an ordeal that relic-seekers must successfully navigate or get vaporized by some ancient curse. I might catch myself brushing that tarnished corner of carpet hoping that its flaw won't show so prominently. I'll relocate clutter to less obvious corners. I'll finally do something about those greasy deposits around the stove. I might even take the drying ZipLock® baggies off their usual front of the refrigerator display space. I want our place to seem normal. I will avoid offensive chemical smells like the notorious Fabreeze®, a scent that smells like nothing so much as a cheap flophouse. I'll fuss over the age-old feather or foam question and position extra blankets close to hand.

I'll miss cloaking at least a hundred cues of the degraded existence The Muse and I ordinarily live. We'll hope that the celebratory atmosphere will counterbalance these small oversights, but a host never knows. The Muse sometimes daydreams of turning our old house in Walla Walla into a bed and breakfast, a daydream for her and a nightmare for me. I love hosting guests when those guests are family or friends. My faith in the charitable nature of humankind does not extend to include routinely hosting other than family or friends. Family and friends extend more generous interpretations of our many quite obvious shortcomings, and only rarely ever insisting upon any deferential bowing or toting. Strangers can stomp all over another's hospitality without ever suspecting that they've done anything. Genuine affection covers most surface imperfections, and genuine affection might be the only good reason to ever host any houseguest. If I can't love our CumpKnee, they most certainly will find no good reason to love me back.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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