The bringing in of guests

Not only am I a far cry from Dorothy Day, I am not even very good at luncheon hospitality. I want to be. I try to be. But I am too busy, my kitchen is too small, inviting people over takes too much time, my apartment is always too messy . . . Intentionality, however, is not perfection. Let’s consider that very last excuse in my list, the seemingly innocent insistence that my apartment is never tidy enough for guests. Well, now. I probably shouldn’t have curdling milk in the fridge if I’m inviting someone over for tea, and it might be nice if I emptied the kitchen trash can and didn’t leave dirty clothes all over the bathroom floor. But to be a hostess, I’m going to have to surrender my notions of Good Housekeeping domestic perfection. I will have to set down my pride and invite people over even if I have not dusted. This is tough: My mother set a high standard. Her house is always immaculate, most especially if she’s expecting company. But if I wait for immaculate, I will never have a guest. -Lauren Winner, Mudhouse Sabbath

This morning, in an effort to restore normalcy to our house, I swept the kitchen floor. This was after the electrician came, and there were bits of ceiling all about, so I swept. Not long ago, I watched as they sliced up the floor and carried it out the kitchen door. So much for normalcy.

It’s funny, I know, that I swept the floor, but I didn’t know what else to do. And, as my mother’s daughter, I thought, “All these people are traipsing in and out of my house . . . I don’t want them to think I’m a slob. I want them to think I’m the kind of person who makes her bed (because I am).” So I folded laundry and remade the bed after washing the sheets. I put away the dishes and reloaded the dishwasher. I unpacked the rest of the suitcases. And I swept the floor.

I sent Kelly an email this morning saying that it was too soon to tell but that it might be tricky for them to come stay with us in a couple of weeks. We’ll know more in a few days, but I realized that it made me sad. We don’t have any big parties coming up, but we’ve had plans for Scott and Kelly to come stay, and for Josh to visit, and we have dinner with the Shearers somewhat regularly. I have never been great with hospitality, both in my home and in my heart, but I have been working on it. It’s less because of the clothes on the bathroom floor (I don’t leave clothes on the bathroom floor) and more because of the high standard that my mother set. I have Mike to take out the trash, and I keep things pretty straight, but neither of us likes to dust. And I have been learning to let go of those things and have people over even when I haven’t dusted. But it surprises me that I feel bad that I can’t have people over at all. (Unless, of course, they like bare floors and huge fans intended to dry things out.) It’s nice to think that it’s become something I want instead of something Mike pushes me to do. It’s one of those ways that marriage has changed me.

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