If you should happen to stop by my house unexpectedly and ring the bell, don't be alarmed at the sound of slamming doors, rustling papers, clanging dishes, and muffled shouts of "Hang on! I'll be there in a minute! ”coming from within. And when I finally open the door, don't be surprised if I quickly slip outside on the porch with you, closing the door behind me.
Should you insist on coming inside, be prepared for me to throw myself across the threshold, barring your entry, with some lame excuse like "Gee, I'd love to invite you in, but we have dolomites and are fumigating” or "My great-great uncle-in-law contracted amoebic dysentery during the Civil War, and my husband may be a carrier.” Not a word of it's true of course (he actually had gout) but in dire circumstances such as this I tend to panic and blurt out the first thing that comes to mind.
The truth that I'm trying to hide from you (you'll never know how hard) is that on any given day my house is an absolute disaster, and without at least forty-five minutes advance warning I cannot, and will not allow outsiders even a momentary glimpse of it. To make matters worse, I feel totally alone in this.
Case in point, yesterday I went next door to borrow a cup of molasses (I just spelled that word wrong three different ways before resorting to spell check) from my neighbor, which meant trailing her through four rooms on the way back to her kitchen. I hadn't called first. She had no heads up that I would be coming over, yet her house was not just merely clean – it was really most sincerely clean.
This strikes me as odd, and – dare I admit it – maddening. I mean, how do people live like this? Where do they stack their junk mail? Don't they ever dump their purses out on the dining table and rifle through the contents looking for errant Target receipts? Why aren't there mounds of unfolded clean towels piled up on their sofas? Don't their breakfast dishes languish on the counter until the eggs get crusty and the syrup turns to epoxy? Why aren't there shoes to trip over, and newspapers opened to the crossword puzzles, and sixteen TV remotes on the coffee table?
In my neighbor's case I didn't venture toward her bedroom, and it's a good thing. I know her. She's just the type to have made her bed first thing in the morning, even when nobody else would ever see it, and the sight of an unnecessarily tidy boudoir would have depressed me even more.
When I was growing up my favorite TV shows were Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best, and the thing I remember most about those programs is that June and Betty not only looked attractive regardless of the time of day – they were always so calm when they answered the door. I am not calm. In fact, I positively freak at the sound of the doorbell. Thank goodness for peepholes. If it's the UPS man, I can breathe easy. But if it's someone I know – even worse, a friend – that's when the panic sets in and the mad "dash to stash” goes into full swing. Anything within direct eyesight from the entry way is crammed out of sight. Tabletop clutter is raked into the nearest drawer, dirty dishes are shoved into the oven, and doors to every room in the house are slammed shut. Depending upon the severity of the mess, this well-rehearsed drill may or may not leave me enough time to hastily swipe a blob of toothpaste across my tongue before greeting my visitor. It's a terrible way to live and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
Forty-five minutes. That's all I ask. Just give me forty-five minutes' notice and I'll happily fling my door open wide to receive you. Otherwise, we'll have to stand out on the front porch to visit. Believe me, it's for your own good. After all, you wouldn't want to be infested with dolomites would you?