Holiday visits can be tricky for both guests and hosts

November 10, 2019

We are well aware that we have many holidays looming around the corner. Some of us will mark these events in the traditional holiday way, which is buying a frozen pizza at the nearest 7-Eleven, microwaving it and spending the night watching reruns of “Leave it to Beaver.” 

Others not so fortunate will go a different route, enduring family, friends and relatives coming and going in droves. It’s not that you don’t enjoy the close personal relationships you’ve maintained by seeing them every 10 years, it’s just that ... well, to put it nicely, some of them have issues.

Now, I don’t care how much you redecorate your house; you can buy those guest soaps with the butterflies smashed into them, and some folks will believe the duct tape around the open hole which you now call a solarium is a nice touch. You can go to great lengths to accommodate this group, especially with the addition of rabbit ears on all the televisions. But no matter how much planning you do, particularly including a night of charades with an empty room, when it comes to house guests, some things seem to never change.

In the first place, I’ve never understood the arrival etiquette. For instance, my adult children will arrive typically two hours late, with multiple duffle bags and luggage, most of which will never be opened. In fact, a great deal of their time will be spent asking if anyone has seen their sunglasses or keys. Apparently life cannot go on unless you have the particular brand of sunglasses they have picked out, I mean charged to your account. The keys go to no locks I’m aware of.

Anyway, without fail, they will dump that pile of stuff on the hallway floor or on the steps going up into the living room. It will remain there in a mountainous sculpture, like a curbside check-in at a large municipal airport. Don’t expect a skycap to suddenly appear and lug this grouping upstairs. You can cover it with a sheet and just tell unexpected guests you are redecorating.

If an adult child is home from college, he will be accompanied by a large black random dog that will be difficult to distinguish from the multitude of black garbage bags containing dirty laundry. The laundry will not be worth washing, having disintegrated into molecules of dust; it’s been a couple of years, after all.

I don’t mind dogs, and this particular dog is housebroken, well behaved and apparently highly educated, since it’s lived at the university since its dedication. However, it has one unnerving trait, namely staring at you the entire time, like it knows the past secrets of the darkest part of your life. Creepy.

I don’t have the same experience when I visit my adult children. Well, first of all, even if I tell them when I’m arriving, I don’t expect them to be home. They have important stuff on their agenda, like spinning classes. Not to worry; they haven’t locked any of the doors since the contractor gave them the keys when the house was first built. If you ask them for a key, you will get a blank, vacuous look, just short of asking you to use the word in a sentence.

Two gigantic dogs, who are so bored and lonely they will put down the house deed they are chewing on, will greet you like the reincarnation of Cesar Millan. The Golden Retriever will throw herself on the ground sobbing, while the black Lab will embrace you like he has found a partner to do a Western line dance.

Mostly, I just circle the driveway, throwing out luggage as a distraction, until I can make a break for it. Oh, there is a welcoming committee once I get inside the house. The phone will ring continuously, the television will go off and on, and the microwave will beep as well as the washer and dryer.

While I’m putting my things away, I may as well throw in a load of laundry, clean a few bathrooms, make a few beds, pay the trash man and eventually make a run to the grocery store, since the refrigerator contains one grape. One can only hope that no one utters the word politics, or all bets are off.


  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.

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