Just Smile and Wave Ladies

English: "The Dedusting Pump", later...

Dear Aimee,

I keep a decent house most of the time, but if there ever is a day when it looks like a tornado hit, that is the day my mother-in-law or someone from church will drop in.  Does this happen to anyone else?  How do some women seem to keep their lives in order all the time?

Elk City, OK

My mother-in-law may actually think that I asked this question.  She has experienced my house at its worst many more times than she has enjoyed it at its best.  There does seem to be a cruel physical law that draws people to your home on the day that you spent six hours organizing closets, but the kids had free rein on the kitchen and made a sheet tent in the living room.  If you are like me, you spout apologies and offer a tour of your newly well-organized utility closet because you need them to know you really are a decent housewife.

In my fifteen years of keeping house, I have learned that most people who have children understand the relentless war against clutter and have much sympathy for your plight.  We recently had a meeting at our house.  Let me rephrase that.  We recently hosted a small group gathering for which my husband gave me very short notice for. I snapped into military sergeant mode and the house was clean on the surface as the first guests arrived, but I still wasn’t sure that someone wouldn’t leave with a sucker stuck to the back of their pants. A lovely older couple was in attendance, and I muttered off a few preëmptive apologies for the state of my house as they made themselves at home.  She smiled so sweetly and said, “I had three of my own, dear. You don’t ever have to make excuses with me.  I know how impossible it is to keep a house with little ones running around.”  I exhaled, mentally kicked off my shoes, put my feet up on the coffee table, and realized that this woman was my new best friend.

I like what Julia Child said when asked about cooking for others. She said, “Never apologize and never make excuses.” I think this philosophy can trickle down to housekeeping as well.  There are many times that I may have never noticed a piece of torn wallpaper or a stain on the carpet if the host hadn’t pointed it out to explain first. Sparkling floors are nice, but they in no way compare to dazzling hospitality. It is important to give your family a clean sanitary home, and put a little pride into the little place on Earth you call your own.  But when it comes to impromptu guests, party invitees, and mother-in-laws; open the door wide, greet them with a smile, and serve them as the special guest they are, but do it without apologies or excuses.  After all, they did drop in unannounced and if this was a Dear Miss Manners column? She would definitely have a few things to say about that.

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One thought on “Just Smile and Wave Ladies

  1. My pastor’s wife tells the story of a woman they used to pastor with a houseful of kids. Her trick was to leave the vacuum plugged in and sitting in the middle of the floor 24/7. That way when someone dropped by, it looked like they had interrupted her cleaning.

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