Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dew Drop Inn

This last weekend was the first weekend we’ve all been home together in a long time, so Matt and I were celebrating by scrambling around doing chores. We had received a “friendly reminder” notice from our Home Owners’ Association telling us that our front yard needs work or it will bring all our property values down. The letter said to do three things: Please mow grass; please edge between lawn and driveway; and please “redifine” the planted area at the right side of the yard.

Matt and I decided that the last part meant we needed to tidy up the pine straw covering our planted area, but I was intrigued by the possibilities inherent in the invitation to “redifine” that area. Perhaps we could redefine it as a more wild, less cultivated, natural buffer between our neighbor and us? Or as a place for hoboes to doss down while passing through? Maybe the HOA needs to be more specific if they want a certain result. But we don’t like to flout the rules, and I even appreciate the fact that this HOA keeps my neighbors from having junk cars out in their front yards, or those plywood garden decorations that look like fat ladies bending over. We want the HOA—we need them on that wall.

My part of the chores had consisted of changing all the beds, standing at the top of the stairs, and throwing the dirty sheets down onto the living room floor. The kids thought this was a great idea, and started carrying pieces of laundry back up the stairs to drop them again and again. This created a much wider distribution pattern of laundry across the living room. I didn’t want to spoil their fun by actually taking the sheets to the washer, so I turned to getting supper organized.

At this point Matt came in from a Home Depot trip and invited me to come see a new ladder he bought, so I scampered out there (come on, ladders are cool). While we were standing in the driveway, clad in our Saturday best (mine was a pajama top, Hawaiian shorts, and crocs), a BMW pulls up behind us. I didn’t recognize the car or the nicely dressed young couple inside it, so I thought they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I may have been giving them the stink-eye. When Matt greeted them, I realized that they were our Sunday-night dinner guests. Arriving on Saturday. Matt had invited two couples, one couple I knew and one I didn’t, over for a Sunday night dinner. And here were the Hamiltons, whom I didn’t know but who looked perfectly lovely. They were mortified when they realized their mistake. I had to laugh when Kelly, the wife, said to her husband, “From now on, I’m reading all the emails.”

I invited them to come in and have supper with us, because I had just put chicken and cornbread muffins in the oven. As when anyone stops by your house, you do a quick mental calculation of just how messy IS the place—is it fit to be seen or are there horrors too terrible for public view? (Flylady calls this CHAOS—Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.) I quickly decided that we were dealing only with kid clutter. And the fact that I was wearing a pajama top. But nothing was dirty or anything. Then I walked through the front door just slightly ahead of everyone else and saw the giant pile of laundry. Or it had been a pile when I’d dropped it from upstairs. Now it was more of a layer. Following the Suburban Matron Rule of Never Apologize for the State of Your House, I just did a graceful pirouetting all about the room and swept up all the clothes. It was graceful. Or it may have been. The Hamiltons were much too polite to notice any of this.

And I did change my shirt, but not immediately. I whipped up a salad and a veg and we all had dinner. And the Hamiltons were delightful company, and we were really glad that they came over. And I was also pleased that we had our act minimally together enough to be hospitable, and to offer them something besides crackers and the beer they brought. We spent a nice night talking and playing cards, and after they left, Matt said, “Your sprezzatura is beyond words.” A rave review from my most valued critic!

So what do you do with unexpected company? Do you keep special snacks on hand? Sheets to drape over things? Do you enjoy it or does it scare you?

They came back the next night, along with our other friends, and we had another lovely time. And the Hamiltons brought a bottle of gin this time—I really like those people!


Bren said...

To spare the common folk from having to google "sprezzatura" (like I did), here it is “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it”

God, that's beautiful.

And yes, you're dripping with sprezzatura.

Amy said...

you are indeed! i stand in awe. and i have to confess that i apologize entirely too much for the state of my house. so i'm learning from you, beck!

Hootie said...

I try to make even the simplest things I do seem awash in artifice. Come up with a word for that, smart guy! (Oooh... I just sprained my finger reaching for the shift key to make that exclamation point. I'll need to do more stretching next time.)

Sarah said...

Hi left a nice comment on my blog yesterday but I am not sure I know who you are...I have a hunch but if you could clarify that would be great!!!

Sarah said...

Okay...great...glad to hear!! I DID know a Becky and Matt REALLY well in college and had been looking for them (through Facebook, etc.). So I was thinking how crazy it would be if they had just randomly found my blog. Funny. Glad you enjoy it. It's been a good outlet.

Lecia said...

LOL - I had to wipe off smudged mascara after laughing to the point of tears over this one! Great story and delivery...and what a gracious person you are.

Kelly H. said...

I am so glad you blogged about this evening! I was hoping you would and couldn't stop laughing even though I lived through it ;)

Becky said...

Thanks for reading, ladies! You are sweet. (And Hootie, I'm still trying to come up with a word for you.)

Kelly, I'm glad you enjoyed it (both the blog report and the living through it)! It was a fun weekend.

Carrie said...

It's a very good guest who takes a look at your "laundry layer" and realizes that what you need is gin. :-) I love it. Please give them my address as we have developed an "everything layer" and are out of gin.