If you have ever hosted an event in your home you know full well all the details involved in preparation, cooking and planning for guests to arrive. It’s unusual these days to find families with the time to have folks over for evening get together. We are all so rushed and hurried and at best an event is mostly casual, I mean, who really cares what the house looks like? It’s typically women that get together in homes, and these often involve a hostess party to sell one’s product line. These informal gatherings are usually held in the living room and rarely require a tremendous amount of effort.
When I was growing up my parents would have people over from our church. Many times this would include the Pastor and his wife and a few other close friends. Back in my day this meant an all out event that included a meal and a time of fellowship. My Mom is an over achiever when it comes to organization and cleaning and a dinner event at our home meant she would turn into a Martha Stewart version of the Hulk. She would turn multiple shades of green and her small 5’2” frame would take on a form I’d rather not put into words. She gave new meaning to the naval terminology “all hands on deck!”
Although I enjoyed the company of our guests when they visited, I severely dreaded the all out panic that evoked our house prior to their arrival. Everything had to be cleaned. EVERYTHING. You remember Martha in the Bible? Well one thing, my Mom’s name is Martha and secondly, the Biblical Martha had nothing on my Mom. Busy is an understatement.
Before the guests arrived it was determined that everything in the house was dirty and needed to be cleaned. Even the curtains were taken down for washing, no kidding. Knickknacks were dusted and possibly washed by hand. The kitchen floor was cleaned and waxed (this was before no wax floor coverings). Furniture was moved and the floor was vacuumed underneath. All furnishings were dusted and the bathroom tiles were sprayed and cleaned with a toothbrush so no dirt or mold was visible. Shower curtains were washed and bathrooms cleaned until they sparkled. We were not even allowed to go to the bathroom for 3 hours prior to guests arriving so there no stains in the toilet. (Just kidding, she’ll read this and refute it!!!) All dishware was prepared for service and a beautiful table would be set the tablecloth ironed three times so there were no wrinkles. Oh, and the regular laundry had to be washed, dried and put up so nothing was visible in the hamper. I think we even re-potted some plants. I haven’t even touched on making up the beds and cleaning closets, but I think you get the picture. When we were done, our house would glow from the inside out. Did I mention sweeping and hosing down the front porch and all the cars washed? Never mind…..
Typically we would host an event on a Saturday night, so that meant all the preparation would start as soon as possible on Friday and be ongoing right up until the guests arrived.
Finally my Mom would stop the insane frenzy, shrink down to her normal size, the glazed look would turn into an exhausted stare and she would open the door to our home to our unsuspecting visitors. I was sure they could smell the Lysol Pine cleaner lingering in the toilet bowls. We would have a lovely time with everyone, hoping they didn’t notice the toothpicks that were holding our eyes open from 24 hour non-stop cleaning bonanza.
My Mom was a perfect hostess, making sure everyone was comfortable and had plenty to eat. The conversation was always lively as my Dad would recount a golf story or tell about his hernia surgery. The Pastor’s that visited always had plenty to talk about.
Finally our honored guests would depart and we would call 911 and have them bring an IV to mainline to my Mom so that she wouldn’t pass out. I mean, we did have to do the dishes after everyone left.
Later as a teenager I attended such an event at the home of one of my parent’s friends. I was alarmed to see they had newspapers and magazines stacked on the fireplace and the TV had not even been dusted, yet everyone was having a good time. I grabbed my Mom and took her over to the TV set. I ask her if she had checked to see if it had been dusted. She said, “heavens no!” I said, “no one does at your house either.” I followed her later to the bathroom and when she exited I ask her if she had checked behind the shower curtain to see if they had cleaned the tub. She was horrified I even suggested such a thing. Again, I said, “no one does at your house either.”
Most of what I learned about cleaning and managing a home I learned from my Mom and for that I’m really grateful. I used to be almost as nutty as her about the up keep of the house (my preference was tidy versus museum style), yet I will say we’ve both mellowed out a bit as we’ve aged. I do have it on good authority that she has replaced all the bathroom shower curtains and towels and do-dahs prior to a guest arriving where they live now so everything will be fresh, but I guess she can do what makes her happy once you are her age (a very YOUNG 70+)!
If you come visit me, however, please remember that dog hair is a considered a condiment and you will leave with fuzzy pants.