Being good company is like having good taste; we all believe we are/have it. Last week was my final week on the road and my final and eighth week of being a guest at someone’s house. Generally, when I visit people I make an effort to be a good guest. I volunteer to cook or do the dishes (or both) keep my room tidy and behave much better than I do at home. But we’re all familiar with those wise words from Benjamin Franklin about guests and fish…
Eight weeks is a long time to be a guest, though it hasn’t been non-stop. Each of the past eight weeks my stay has been between three and four nights, I return home on weekends, and many weeks have included one night in New York.
It’s not so hard to be a charming dinner guest. You arrive with wine and some good stories, keep your napkin on your lap, your elbows and feet off the table, try not to interrupt too often and chances are you’ll be invited back. Being a good overnight guest can be challenging. PJs are required, rather than the ratty t-shirt you usually wear, and it’s important to remember to close the bathroom door all the time. You have to be neater, quieter, more polite and slightly less amusing than your hosts.
Each day I rose early and crept out by 6:15 trying to stay quiet and not wake anyone. I didn’t cook or clean, help or really do much but go to work, come home, eat dinner and head off to bed. When I’m tired I’m not my sparkly best, and certainly not very good company. I imagine they were as happy to see me go as I was to go home and unpack for good.
All that said, it has been fun and interesting and I’m so grateful to have been able to call their home my home rather than going back to a lonely hotel room night after night. They enfolded me into their family, made me welcome every time I showed up and were unfailingly kind and generous. I doubt I would be as gracious for such a long time.
I’ve had a few opportunities to live with another family as an adult and each time has been enlightening. A few years ago spent a week with my younger sister and brother-in-law. Being there gave me an entirely new view of their life and their relationship. They’d seemed happy enough, but being there day after day gave me a deeper appreciation of their love and affection for each other. I left feeling both happy to have spent a week in such a peaceful home and a bit envious that I’d never managed to achieve what they had.
Getting a peek into my friends’ life was equally gratifying. Every family has their story. Few are seamless and perfect, all of us have our struggles. From a distance, their life seemed perfect and easy, but of course, it’s not. It is happy, harmonious, interesting and rich. I feel fortunate to have spent time there.
I’ve enjoyed the companionship and conversation. My room in their home spacious and comfortable. My time with them renewed an old friendship and created a new one. It has been the bright spot in an otherwise exhausting few months. As much as I looked forward to unpacking and putting my suitcase away I was a bit sad to say goodbye to my lovely host family.
I sure hope I’ve been as good company for them as they’ve been for me.