These houseguests were a pleasure

Columnist Claudette Sandecki recounts an enjoyable visit with her family

Even the briefest house guest visit sends me into a tizzy of obsessive worry. What preparations are essential? Which are options? Which can I leave undone if I run short of time?

I’ve always envied hostesses so confident when an unexpected visitor knocks they swing the front door wide, and sing out, “Come on in. Set a spell. Join us for dinner.”

That’s unlikely to ever happen in my house.

Before I utter a word of invitation my brain reviews a checklist like a CNN crawl – are my windows and floors clean enough?

Is the sink emptied of dirty dishes? Fridge stocked to fill an extra plate? Do I want to subject this person to my cooking?

The most enjoyable visit I ever hosted resulted when my brother Bob phoned one forenoon as I was gathering my car keys and grocery list for a trip to town.

He called to ask if I had on hand an ample supply of a skin cleanser we both use. If I did, he wouldn’t pack his quart supply. I said I did, so he didn’t.

His call was my first tipoff he and my sister would arrive in 12 hours. As he packed, their ride to the Edmonton airport idled at his front door.

Our sister, feeling the urge to get out of Dodge as she does with seasonal regularity, had purchased two Air Canada tickets and persuaded Bob to come along on a four-day visit.

Before hurrying off after his call I augmented my list  – pork chops, spare ribs,  cheddar cheese, butter tarts and other pastries, and extra fruit.

Once home from town and groceries put away, I dove into essential tasks: make up two beds, clear clutter from the spare room, scrub bathroom, launder mats, vacuum rugs and plan several meals.

Allowed more time I would have baked cookies and a pie, dusted the top of the piano, and washed at least kitchen windows. But there was no time to do more than the minimum.

I comforted myself, “We grew up in the same home. They’ve both visited me before, they know how I live and what to expect. More important I make them welcome and feed them well. That’s all I expect when I visit them.”

Our four-day visit was the most relaxed and enjoyable of my life. With just the three of us, our conversations weren’t interrupted or hijacked by others trying to get in on the tale-telling, a common drawback of family gatherings or reunions which can resemble speed dating.

We reminisced about childhood, reviving memories of incidents I had forgotten or not been present to share, owing to our six and seven year age differences.

We compared our viewpoints during family events such as the evening Kenny set his bed on fire. I was washing supper dishes and pounded upstairs carrying the dishpan of water, Bob raced to the barn through mud wearing new shoes to alert Mom and Dad who were milking cows, Louise recalls Dad flinging smouldering bedclothes off the balcony.

All three of us appreciate humour and let no chance for a fresh quip or pallid pun pass by. Several times we laughed to the level of uncontrollable tears as we exaggerated and heaped one nonsense upon another.

Mid afternoon we took the dogs for a walk. That gave us fresh topics to talk about.

And at any hour that wouldn’t disturb neighbours, we “jammed” taking turns on piano or accordion, running through waltzes, jigs, reels or other fiddle tunes we learned from Dad’s whistling.

Both of them regularly devote time playing at nursing or seniors’ homes.

In the end, additional house cleaning could not have improved our visit even a tiny bit.

Claudette Sandecki keeps her cleaning supplies handy at her home in Thornhill, B.C.