Some people like having lots of company. They like having plenty to do. They like big breakfasts and hearty lunches and specially prepared dinners. They are called houseguests, and as they also like to travel, they will be coming to your house soon -- if they haven't been there already or are with you right now.
I'd like to say something clever here, something very Oscar Wildian or Cole Porterish, like, "There are two kinds of visitors: those who (insert annoying trait here) and those who (insert more annoying trait here)." Alas, I am not that clever. Besides, there are more than two types of visitors. There are hundreds of types.
There are those who like to help with chores around the house.
"Oh, no," they'll say, "you cooked the dinner, so let us clean up." And they do. They clear the table and wash the dishes and put them away. In places where you'll never find them in a million years. We found a frying pan we'd spent a month looking for in the broom closet. It was very, very clean. I'm sure our serving spoons will turn up one day, too. Maybe I should look in the basement.
Then there are the visitors who do no chores at all. The good news is we will find everything when they leave; the bad news is that we'll find it because it's right where they left it. Wet towels on the bathroom floor, peanut shells on the floor beside their bed. When they leave, they say, "Come visit us! We'd love to have you," as if that will make everything equal -- implying that when we come visit them, we can leave wet towels on their bathroom floor and eat peanuts in their bed. But it doesn't make us equal because we would never do those things. It just makes us not want to visit them even more.
There are visitors with well-behaved, happy, delightful children who are a joy to be with. At least I've heard there are, but we've never had them. We get the other kind. The ones with sulky teenagers and out-of-control toddlers. What the teenagers have to be sulky about is anybody's guess. They have cellphones and iPads and video games and streaming movies and free music and all the junk food they can eat, plus they can type with their thumbs. Why, oh why did we do that to them? How could we be so cruel?
"You've wrecked my life," they'll scream at their parents after coming down at 2 in the afternoon for breakfast. What do you say to that? "Not yet"? "You're welcome"? "Then we're doing something right"? How does a teenager know you've wrecked his whole life when most of it hasn't happened yet?
An especially difficult visitor is the old acquaintance -- a college classmate, an Army buddy, the close friend from long ago. The first couple of hours of catching up are great. Then you find out that you're on opposite sides of the political fence. That you drink beer and he likes wine; that you like fish and she likes fowl; that he goes to bed at midnight and you go to bed at 9; that she loves TV shows that you hate; that he has a spouse you can't stand and that they'll both be here for a full three-day weekend.
But there is also the houseguest whose visits are a real pleasure: the kind who shows up with a swag bag of goodies -- cheese, wine, fancy baked goods, expensive nuts, specialty coffee. Who loves to cook but also loves to clean up. This guest is a good conversationalist, is entertaining and can self-entertain, is good with kids and pets and is fun for the whole family, and yet is very unobtrusive.
Unfortunately, I can't be everywhere, but if you have a place on the beach this summer ...
Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.