Dan G. and the Tectonic Soup

I was at work today executing a program that had, as a major component, hourly eruptions of a quite large baking soda and vinegar volcano.  (I swear I don’t make these things up.  Well, I don’t make most of them up.  I’m not making this one up.)  I was the volcano technician, decked out in a lab coat, safety goggles and what I refer to as the “giant astronaut gloves” – three sizes too big for my hands and made of slightly tacky black vinyl. I was assisting Miss Frizzle (yes, the one from the children’s book series), played by a college-age cosplayer who makes appearances in the character’s signature frizzy red wig and theme-printed dresses.  We were a sight to behold.

At the start of each eruption Miss Frizzle would produce, from under our volcano-bearing A/V cart, a globe with a wedge cut out of it, thus displaying the layers of the earth.  “Alright class,” she began, and then gave the shortest, most concise explanation of where the magma is in relation to the humans and how it comes out in the form of lava.  When that was done we asked for volunteers to place tiny rubber dinosaurs around the volcano, and then on cue I poured the vinegar into the baking soda-laden cone and everyone watched in a mix of horror and excitement as it wiped out the dinosaurs.

After the third rendition of this, as the Frizz and I were wheeling the volcano back into the prop room, I asked her what she had done to prepare for the lesson.  Her information on layers of the earth was quite accurate, as far as I could tell, and she was handling audience questions without flinching.  She confessed that she was merely a nerd, and that ninth grade earth science had just stuck with her.  I nodded, impressed, and then quickly did the math that revealed that, as a college kid, ninth grade earth science had been a lot more recent for her than it had been for me.  But, in fact, one of the few memories that is still with me from that time had to do with magma, lava, and the movement of the tectonic plates.

There was this kid in my earth science class, Dan G., who was also the kind of person who would describe himself as a nerd.  He was good at all the labs and the whole class, rather than teasing, couldn’t help but like him because he was always so cheerful and excited to be learning.  When we covered the lesson on volcanos Dan insisted that the movement of the crust of the earth was like boiling a pot of soup, with the vegetables and the foam moving in the same manner as the tectonic plates. For the first time our faith in Dan wavered.  Comparing the earth to a pot of soup was pure crazy talk.  But, he went on to do his whole end-of-year project on this concept, even bringing in a hot plate and a glass pot for us to watch the circulating broth.  I must confess, I did not see the similarity.  Most of us didn’t.  And I put the experiment out of my head for twenty years.

Fast forward to three weeks ago.  I was sitting at my desk googling formulas for maximum baking soda and vinegar reaction.  Some said add dish soap.  Some said add glycerine.  Some were “purist” and insisted on only the two classic ingredients.  And then I stumbled across one of those mom blogs that contained, in great detail, a secondary experiment to pair with your volcanic eruption that involved watching soup boil as an example of the way volcanos are made.  I leaped out of my seat!  Here it was, on the internet, from a reasonably reputable source, the final validation that Dan G. had not been talking crazy talk all those years ago!  There was real science to back up the idea that convection, which is what you are looking at when the cold things go to the bottom and the hot things go to the top, is the same sort of motion as the way the tectonic plates move around on the magma.  (This is not the same link I found but it covers the same concept and has a great experiment for the same age group we were doing the volcano with.)

So, it seems that Dan G. was just ahead of his time with his soup experiment, and extra innovative, as we didn’t have the internet to search these things back then.  I’d like to think that he’s out there somewhere getting credit for this, or at least being able to sit back proudly and say, “yep, I DID think of that first.”

As for Miss Frizzle and the volcano, I decided to keep quiet about the soup concept and stick to letting the kids marvel over the bubbles washing their dinosaurs away.

volcano

 

Advertisements

What’s Good for your Monkey

When I was in middle school… oh, that’s a terrible place to start a story. But I can’t think of a better one.

I was in middle school right when all the critical thinking learning standards started to change. My class was the first class to have those Data-Based Questions, and a few years later a very self-guided “Inquiry Paper,” and in-between a lot of projects and tests for which we were expected to research and synthesize information. I can say phrases like “synthesize information” now, and see how this kind of reading analysis was a precursor to the SAT, but when I was twelve I mostly had no idea what was going on. The teachers had clearly been in some workshops on how to teach this, and while they had the Big Picture in their heads they were not communicating it to us. There were a lot of parent-teacher conferences that year.

But, I digress. A few weeks into seventh grade we did this project with the Buffalo Zoo. They came in and talked about animal habitats, then we were assigned a group, the group was assigned an animal, and we went to the zoo to see the animal in its habitat. Eventually, we were told, we would draw new habitats for our animal that were improvements on what the zoo already had. My group got this little squat-faced, red-assed monkey. I had really wanted to get the tiger.

On the zoo field trip I spent a lot of time looking at the tiger. On the bus ride back I spent a lot of time thinking about the tiger. And when I got back to my desk I had the new tiger habitat all figured out. It would have a passageway through it that looked the same on the inside as it did on the outside, and visitors could walk through as though they were inside the tiger habitat, see exactly the same floor surface and fake rock formations that the tiger was seeing. It was a fabulous idea for a majestic beast like the tiger. The only problem was that my group didn’t have the tiger. We had the red-assed monkey.

So on the day our group was to draw the new habitat I pulled together all of my twelve-year-old courage (which was not very much) and walked over to the tiger group and told them my fabulous idea about the tiger habitat I had imagined with as much panache as I could muster. They nodded, and looked at me a little funny, and went back to drawing (because, of course, they had imagined their own tiger habitat). Then I went back to my group and sulked and didn’t say anything about the tiger habitat. The rest of my group drew a new monkey habitat, and it was basically a little cement box with a tire swing.

Through the rest of middle and into high school I thought back to this story a lot. The day of the drawing was burned into my memory, and I thought that it was stuck there because I had never before pulled off the level of courage I had when I told the tiger group about how to draw the tiger habitat. And then I started making theater.

There’s this anecdote that gets told in theater a lot, particularly when you’re just starting out. It’s about an actor who goes out for the role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, and though he puts his all into auditions he’s just terrible. There’s no way the director can cast him in the lead, but he does find it in his heart to cast him as Friar Lawrence. By the time opening night is rolling around he’s told all his friends and family that they should come see his show. And what’s it about? It’s about this Friar who gets caught in the middle of a tragic love story…

So what does this have to do with middle school tigers (if you haven’t already started putting it together)? The actor got right everything that I got wrong. This guy took his red-assed monkey out of the cement box, worked on it really hard, and made something amazing that he was proud of. Both he, and the monkey, ended up benefitting. But me? I shortchanged both the monkey and the tiger. I didn’t communicate properly, and couldn’t adapt my idea to fit my actual situation, so nobody got any benefit from me. In fact, I’m pretty sure I dragged them down by being awkward and sulky.

Ultimately, this story is about communication and adaptation, and if you ask me those are the keys to both self-reliance and risk-taking. You must share your ideas – like crazy, in fact – even if you sometimes get shot down, because you never know when the right person is listening. And when you do get shot down, you must put your big-girl pants on and adapt. That doesn’t mean drown the monkey, or stuff the tiger (well, sometimes. But that’s another story). It just means wiggling things around until they are just right. That’s what work is. It’s not easy. But sometimes it’s good for your monkey.

 

 

 

 

Asking someone out is always going to be awkward.

My first crush was named Molloy. He was one of those really tall bean-pole style people, with a messy mop of blonde hair and dark-rimmed glasses. Compared to most of the boys in high school, he was incredibly attractive, and his locker was only eleven lockers down from my own. I walked up to him one afternoon when the hallway was empty and he was digging something out of a folder and asked him to the homecoming dance. He said no, and it was awkward.

Ten years later I was working for a theater company in Chicago. One show we produced required an elaborate paint treatment, and we’d had to post in the wanted ads for a scenic painter. We ended up with Tom. Tom was stout, but with a cute, dimpled smile and I adored the way he looked intently at his design, and then up at the set, studying it. I had been unabashedly watching him work every opportunity I could since we loaded in to the theater, but hadn’t spoken to him beyond “hellos” and “goodnights.” On opening night the production team went to the bar to celebrate and after two beers I decided to take my chance. After a few minutes of my exuding drunken compliments on the brilliance of his painting while draped over his hightop, he also said no.  It was awkward, and then we did three more shows together in relative silence.

Some years after that, a few things happened. First, I got married (to someone who said YES). Then I discarded all of my accumulated skills at asking near-strangers to do things with me. And then I met John.

John worked at the same theater I did but in a different department. Our duties did not intersect and we mostly didn’t speak to each other, except that my desk was right next to the door to John’s office. He started saying “hi,” and then I started saying “hi” back, and pretty soon we were having whole conversations and going for coffees. (Now remember, I’m married, and John knew I was married, and we were not trying to do anything underhanded about that.) Then a sign was posted for the company canoe trip, along with instructions that each canoe needed a team of at least two people. Of course John was my logical choice for co-canoer, and I decided to ask him after lunch one afternoon. As we walked out of the café, my palms started sweating and my stomach clenched. I could barely get the words out! All of my previous awkward invitations and rejections came back as a tidal wave of memories convincing me this was a bad plan. I stood there with my mouth hanging open. After an eternity he politely responded that he would think about it. I let out the breath I was holding, turned to walk away, and walked into a street sign. Bam. Awkward.

But all of this old history really comes up because last week I was, at the last minute, gifted a pair of tickets to a bike race. I have never been to a bike race, and this sounded like a good time. My spouse was not available, and, though I asked around my friend circuit a bit, I couldn’t find anyone who was free on the short notice. Figuring I’d have better luck with people who were on the same schedule as me, I thought about what co-workers I could possibly bring. Stephen came to mind right away. He’s this very geeky, very kind, quiet fellow that I’m pretty sure no one pays any attention to and I thought that made him kind of safe. I cornered him at the end of the day, took a deep breath, wiped my sweaty hands on my pants, and asked. His response, which I should have anticipated, was to the effect of, “Don’t you have any better friends than me?”

“I asked my usual friends,” I replied. “None of them were available, so I started on my… un…usual friends.”   Then I smiled real big and tried not to die of humiliation.

So it seems that no matter how old I am, how married I am, and how many times I’ve tried it, asking someone out – even casually as friends – is awkward for me. My palms are always going to sweat. I’m always going to hold my breath. And chances are very good that somewhere in there I’m going to put my foot in my mouth (or maybe walk into a pole). But I keep trying because at the end of the day I really like people, and I especially like it when we can get pas the awkward parts and be friends. Not that that’s ever happened. But… tomorrow’s another day.

The New Guy

I have a new friend.  He’s quite a bit younger than me and I resisted making friends with him at first because of it.  But he kept showing up, and I did too, and after a while it just happened in spite of my ridiculous belief that I couldn’t be friends with someone who had not lived as many years on Earth as I had.  As I’ve gotten to know him I’ve pinpointed the thing that defied my logic – he’s what you would call “wise beyond his years.”

So the other night he and his occasional girlfriend joined me for dinner at this great little pub in my neighborhood that I’d been saying nice things about for weeks.  (I think they thought it was going to be a double date, which it was not, but that’s another story for another day.)  Dinner was fun, and silly, and the conversation never lagged.  We are all employed by the same firm so mostly we talked about work, the management as much as the customers.  She works front line customer service, and had plenty of things to say about the recent volume of guests.  He works in an area that sometimes gives jobs to hopeless cases as a form of charity, and at the moment had in his supervision a woman who talked to her water bottle, another with whom he needed to have a talk about using more deodorant, and a guy who regularly wandered off from his station to play games on his phone.  They were both unhappy, and I think more than a little envious that I had recently been promoted to the creative team, a department considered to be mythical, full of puppies and rainbows.

By the end of our meal I had them both daydreaming about what they would do instead of their current jobs. She was in school to be a teacher, and regularly did hours with a third grade class that she loved. All indications were that she would work at that school as soon as the degree was in her hand. He had no idea, but was simply looking for a change. Every time this topic of jobs came up I’d encouraged him to get out and see the world, as I had done with the years that I was older than him.  He nodded whenever I advocated for adventure, but with a hesitation that I found frustrating.  I didn’t believe he would actually do it.  But the more we talked (and the lower in the glasses our beers got) the more firmly he insisted that maybe he would just take off.  So firmly, in fact, that by the end of dinner he was definitely, absolutely, leaving this job for something better.

And then I realized what I had done.

“But wait,” I said, back-pedaling.  “What -?”  (“What will I do at work without my friend to come visit me on boring days?  To have coffee with me?  To commiserate?” But I couldn’t actually say any of that.)

He turned to me and said simply, “I have your phone number.”

I sat back with some satisfaction.  Unbeknownst to him, I had said that same thing many times in my past as I left one place for the next.  “I’m not going to the moon,” I would say. “The phone still works in the next city.”  And, for my efforts with said phone, I have been rewarded with a great deal of friends who greet me with open arms whenever I roll into town, even when there are years between visits.  If he has the same heart (and it’s looking promising) this new guy will be an old friend before I know it.

Brave, part 2

As night came everyone started packing up and stumbling off.  Most folded up their lawn chairs and headed for their cars, poking here and there at the bushes to find the gap to walk through to the parking lot now that it was pitch dark outside.  Rob and his family had a camper on the property so it was simply a matter of rounding up the small children and herding them inside.  A few other families split off to grassy locations and popped up dome tents.  I could have gone either way; I could have gotten in my car and driven through the night back home, or popped a tent.  Since staying till morning meant visiting another set of cousins and a block of homemade cheese from the Amish store, I went for the tent.

The morning that came was dewey and gray, but I woke with no trace of either a hangover or the back pain customary of sleeping on the ground.  I climbed out of my tent and stood barefoot in the wet grass.  Residents of other tents were also stirring, and those of us who had emerged waved sheepishly, each fumbling with our bed hair and wrinkled clothing.  I waited until Lindsay and Rob had emerged from their sleeping places and said goodbye, then threw all my gear back into the car and started the drive around the lake to the home of another family.

Cousin Mel met me with a cup of coffee and a homemade blueberry muffin.  Despite the fact that I was rumpled, bleary-eyed and probably smelled like residual fireworks she led me into the kitchen and took a chair down from the top of the kitchen table for me to sit on.  “Where you mopping?” I asked.

“No,” she replied.  “The baby gets up on the chairs and up on the table and tries to hang from the chandelier.”

I started to file this away under Reasons to NOT Become a Parent, but she went on to point out spectacular refrigerator art from the same kiddo, and tell me wonderful stories of him and his sister being helpful and sweet and snuggly.  One of the stories involved a litter of kittens that had been born in the barn.  Mel had thought there were only four until her daughter found a fifth, a tiny runt so small he fit in a coffee mug, and named him Brave.  She explained how she’d been hoping the little guy would meet his end swiftly, and in a location where the kids wouldn’t find him.  There was no way he was strong enough to survive in the barn, and they were not capable of giving him care at the house.  One bit of conversation led to the next, and before I could think better of it Brave the Kitten was in my sweatshirt pocket headed for my house.

Maybe it was missing the barn and his family, maybe it was his overall weakness, but by morning Brave was in bad shape.  He wouldn’t mew, and could barely stand.  He refused food and water.  After just a few minutes of holding him he was limp.  I’d heard about, and read about, people feeling souls depart the world as they leave the body, but it’s hard thing to conceive of unless it’s happened to you.  Little Brave died peacefully in my hand, and his tiny kitten soul washed over me as he went.  Exhaused, I cried for a long time.

 

 

 

Brave, part 1

The one and only time I attended my cousin’s stepdad’s third of July party I learned that it was exactly as debaucherous as everyone had been saying it was for years.   And despite the prevailing opinion, it wasn’t for being a prude that I had never attended.  It was just always something.  Some years I’d been away, other years busy, others without transportation to the remote lakeside location.  I’d been absent so much that it was my presence that turned heads that warm afternoon.

I showed up empty handed save a fold-up lawn chair that I plunked down next to my cousin Mike’s wife, the only attendee who had waved at me.  Beside her was her daughter, a cousin of mine that I barely knew, and her son, who I’d forgotten existed.  My cousin Rob’s wife was having a beer under the food tent with someone I didn’t recognize, while her children ran wildly through the mud.  There were a spattering of other familiar faces, but only passingly so, and no one that I thought I could strike up a conversation with.  At that point I was unemployed, recently moved, and engaged to someone they’d never met, so there weren’t a whole lot of talking points that would take us very far.  As I was reconsidering my attendance, cousin Lindsay showed up.

She and I were about 10 years apart in age, but we were closer than me and her older sister.  We caught each other up on our lives relatively quickly , but it was obvious she was scanning the party for someone else.  I had no idea who until cousin Jason showed up and Lindsay’s whole demeanor changed.  Where she had been bubbly, she was now stealthy.  He walked up to us and they talked in hushed voices, a step away from me, eyeing the break in the bushes that led to the place where the cars were parked.  Oh my goodness they’re going to steal a car, I thought, because that’s what cousin Rob would have whispered to me about in our youth.  Instead, as they walked off together, I saw Jason pull a small pouch from his pocket.  Whew, I thought, they’re just going to smoke.  Bad, but could be worse. In condolence to myself, I went to get a beer.

 

Grownups and friends

Over the years I’ve had bigger and smaller birthday gatherings with more and less people at them.  I move a lot – often changing cities – so the size of the event is loosely dependent on how soon after moving my birthday occurs and how friendly a set of co-workers I have at any moment. The previous year had been one of the smallest, so this year I was determined to do better.

Starting a whole month before my actual birthday I started plotting out what new friends I was going to invite.  I tried to balance old friends and new, and those from my different jobs.  It worked great on paper, but the execution of invitation was a lot harder than I thought.  It was so hard that I didn’t net a single extra celebratory person.

Weeks after the fact I was sitting at the pub with my old friend Rachel, telling her this story.  She nodded sympathetically as I explained the details.  “I’d walk up to somebody, say, a co-worker.  It would be somebody that I could normally talk to just fine about doing work.  I’d try to invite them, I’d open my mouth, and no words would come out.  I’d just stand there until they looked up, and then apologize and walk away.”

“I know what you mean,” Rachel said.  “It’s like you want to be friends with someone so bad – you find them so funny or charming or whatever – that you just want to walk up to them and say ‘be my friend!’ and instead it comes out like:

gaffequiz

Rachel at least put my situation into perspective.  And while I felt better not being alone, I felt terrible knowing that there are other fully grown humans out there who, as adults, have lost their ability to make friends!  Are we just much better at psyching ourselves out of confrontation, even when the confrontation might yield positive results?  Or is it really that much harder these days than when we were on the playground?

Turns out – it is that much harder!  A quick search of the internet turned up at least half a dozen articles on this very topic all of which said the same thing: we’re not broken or incapable of friendship, it just gets harder as you get older.  Families and jobs become a priority over friends, and the rate of loosing friends when you’ve moved once or twice (or five or six times, as I have) increases exponentially.

How do we fix it?  Here’s a short explanation of the situation from this TIME article by Samantha Lee and Drake Baer:

In the 1950’s sociologists discovered three factors that are necessary for making friends.
Proximity – you should be near one another
Unplanned Reactions – you run into each other even when you don’t schedule it
Privacy – you’re in situations where you can confide in each other

Adulthood provides few situations where all three of these are possible.

The key, then, would seem to be to make them possible.  And it doesn’t have to start with a  situation that’s as major as my birthday invitation.  They suggest that just “becoming a regular” somewhere is enough to put you in proximity and create unplanned reactions.  Another suggestion is to “make people feel like they matter” by asking for favors or help. This puts you in proximity, causes a future reaction when you get to return the favor, and allows opportunity to share more private information.

Certainly some solid strategy to consider before the next cake and ice cream.

Dad folding laundry

Dad would do laundry on Sunday afternoons after church.  Mom would be away hosting an open house and he would get the notion that it was time to Help Mom by doing the laundry.  I am mostly entirely sure that Mom did not need – in fact did not want – Dad to do the laundry but was too busy to say anything about it.

The washing part was easy.  The laundry  machine washed the laundry without me or Dad having to do anything about it, and I took advantage of that part to sneak off (usually to read).  It wasn’t until it was out of the dryer and needed folding that I would hear Dad’s bellow, summoning me to the basement.

The first most horrible thing to fold was underwear that did not belong to me.  The memory of it is so distressing that now, as a full grown adult, I do not fold my underwear nor the underwear of anyone else in my house.  It goes in the drawer in a pile.  The second most horrible thing to fold was the towels because Dad was very particular about how the towels were folded.  From laundry day to laundry day I would forget the precise movements and need to be taught again, which prompted his rolling his eyes.  “We did this last week.  How do you not remember?” I didn’t remember.  I never remembered.  And it would take lots of prompting to get me to fold it just right.  To this day I’m not sure if I subconsciously forgot the folding technique in hopes that he would throw his hands up in exasperation and declare me free of needing to help.  If that was my plan, it never worked.

When the folding was done Dad would employ his Super Dad Technique for getting all the laundry up the stairs with no laundry basket.  He would start with me and a tall stack of folded washcloths and dishtowels.  He would cram the topmost washcloth up under my chin, and have me stretch out my arms for the bottom dishtowel, steadying them and compressing them so that they did not fly out all over.  Once he was sure I had it, he would pick up his own pile from the folding table by tipping the stack just enough to get the topmost bath towel under his own chin, and slide his hands under the bottom.  Then we would toddle up the stairs like the Red Queen in stiff neck ruffles desperately trying not to drop anything, and argue at the top about who was more capable of working the knob on the linen closet door.

Forgetting

It was very hot.  The windows were all the way open, at least as much as windows open in dorm rooms, which is not very much since college students started jumping out of them.  There was a tiny fan on the dresser humming, oscillating back and forth, but it barely reached me where I lay on the top bunk.  I’d run a washcloth under the cold tap before climbing up and pressed it to my forehead, but no matter what I did it was still hot.

I had to fall asleep, I told myself. I had work in the morning and it was NOT work I could walk through in a daze if I was exhausted.  I peeled the washcloth off my eyes and stared up into the speckled landscape of the suspended ceiling as though it held the answer.  It didn’t.  Instead, I thought of him.

In my mind I pictured his body.  No, not his naked body, crazy, what do you think this is?  More like the curve of his hip when he leaned against the door frame talking to me about which of his staff was being the most idiotic.  Or the way I could tell whether or not he had showered by observing whether or not all the hair on the back of his neck laid down nicely or stuck up at crazy angles.  I heard his laugh.  They say a laugh is the first thing you forget about someone when they die, and I was grateful in that moment that he had not died, and that I could probably get him to laugh in the morning if I really tried.  I fell asleep imagining jokes I would tell him, repeating the punchline over and over to commit it to memory.

This is how I fell asleep every night, all through the hot spell.

It’s been almost a year since then.

At this point in the season it’s still cold out. The heater’s on a program and if I stay up later than it thinks I should it stops heating, leaving me to shiver under my quilt. The other night I could’t sleep no matter how I tried.  I tossed and turned, rolled myself up like a burrito, but no luck.  And then I remembered this trick from the summer; I remembered thinking of him.  The ceiling is plaster now but I lay there, just the same, staring up at it and imagining.  I could picture the curve of his hip, but it didn’t send the current of electricity through me.  I could remember his disheveled hair, but it didn’t bring the smirk to my face.  Everything about him was cooling, like the lyrics in the Tori Amos song.

This is how it feels to forget, I thought.  This is what forgetting is.  Not the loss of the memory.  Not the loss of the shape, or the color, or the sound of the laughter.  It’s the loss of the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when the memory is conjured.  It’s the visceral punch delivered to your gut dulled and sanded to a smoothed over version.  And it’s terrible.

On being a Hostess

My mother grew up in the country.  The country country.  The kind of country that people are talking about when they tell that story about walking to school barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways.  And maybe that’s why, when we make fun of my mother for her quirks, we tend to blame it on her former rural life.  But for all of her not being able to work the computer and having a love of trashy reality TV, there is one thing my mother’s rural upbringing got perfectly right: being a hostess.

My mother is the best hostess I have ever met.  Whenever people are coming to stay at the house she cleans the guest room top to bottom.  They get crisp, clean sheets and the fluffiest towels, laid perfectly at the foot of the bed.  My dad gets the job of washing out the tub, toilet and sink (a job he hasn’t relinquished even as he’s gotten older and less capable of bending.  Instead, he’s procured a telescoping bathroom cleaning wand with a sponge on the end.)  As a kid, my job was to dust and vacuum the downstairs, and now that I’m gone they split that between them, leaving the perfectly parallel “I’ve been vacuumed” tracks in the blue shag carpet they’ve had since before I was born.

As much as I hated those chores as a kid I appreciate them now that I am considered a guest.  Those parallel vacuum lines say, “we knew you were coming and prepared,” and those fluffy towels say, “we don’t see you that often, so you can have the good stuff while you’re here.”  These gestures used to make me uncomfortable.  When I was coming home from college I never wanted the fuss, the trouble they went through, or the good stuff.  But over the years I’ve stayed at many other houses, sometimes in guest rooms and sometimes on couches or floors, and I’ve come to appreciate the value of a good host to a weary traveller.

This weekend, and for several upcoming weekends through the summer, I’ll get to play host to waves of friends and family – some just visiting, and some stopping by on their way to other destinations.  The first of these just arrived, and as my mother taught me I spent the day before putting the crisp sheets on the guest bed, washing the tub, toilet and sink, and getting out the fluffy towels (we have no carpet to vacuum!).  It has become satisfying to do these things, knowing that my efforts make someone else comfortable, and I plan to uphold the tradition (even inflicting it on my children, when I am fortunate enough to have them).  Perhaps those good old fashioned country quirks aren’t so bad after all.