If the heart of our home is, well… HEART, then what does your home speak of you? For the first thirty years of our marriage our house was like a Motel 6. I could say a lovely B&B but raising five kids took most of the lovely out of our home, so Motel 6 is a more accurate description. My husband’s job keeps him on the road for months at a time, so he always felt if any pilot friends were over-nighting in the Medford area he wanted to offer them a bed and a meal or two. This sometimes created small bits of havoc especially when he would forget to tell me he was bringing one or three guys home with him. I am a decent cook, but I wouldn’t always have food, company food, in the pantry, freezer or fridge. I like a clean and orderly house, maybe in another parallel universe that would happen, but it was my fantasy NOT my reality. There were always dirty dishes in the sink, always somebody’s underwear on the bathroom floor, dried toothpaste in the bathroom sink, bath towels with holes, and ALWAYS at least one child who could not remember to flush. Ours was not a “drop in anytime” kind of house.
I have a dear friend who used to think he was hilarious when he would call from his cell phone at the bottom of my driveway to inform me that he and his family were coming for a visit. “Oh!” I would exclaim in my high-pitched liar’s voice, “GOODY!” In the five minutes I knew I had before they arrived I would make a “flush-run” through the bathrooms grabbing whatever was on the floor and cramming it in a hamper. I perfected shoving dishes in the oven and slapping on some lip-gloss in record time to an art. I finally had to have a sit down with him and my darling Brent to say: “Do that again and die buster.” A discipline tactic with my kids was: First time is funny; second time is annoying, and the third time is a spanking. I tried a version of this analogy with these two men in my life. My friend listened and learned, my husband not so much and after thirty-five years together he has worn me down on the issue. He just could not understand why I would melt down over unexpected sleep overs. Finally, through fitful tears I tried to articulate that I wanted our people to feel at home and in order for that to happen I needed to not be a wreck and in order for that to happen I had to have my ducks in a row: a decent grocery shop, menus planned, clean sheets, clean bathrooms, fresh towels and on and on and on.
“Welcome home” to me smells like pot roast in the oven and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies in the jar. It is a cozy bed with crisp sheets and hospital corners (don’t ask, it’s something my mother drummed into my head and still how I must make my beds, or the world might end.) It is conversation and laughter, lots and lots of laughter. It was a perfectly simple formula to me but his answer to everything was: the house looks fine, don’t do anything extra, it will be…FINE. Sometimes I just wanted to punch him in the throat. But he was right. In the end, it is a heart condition. Hospitality begins with our hearts. The inviting atmosphere we create comes down to how inviting we are as hosts. Laughter is always the best diffuser. So what if there is a load of laundry on the couch, that just says we are approachable. It is better if it is a nice pile of towels though… underthings just make it awkward.