Over the past few years we’ve been lucky to have wonderful houseguests, making lots of fun memories and deepening and enriching friendships.
I have two rules for houseguests:
1. Make yourself at home.
2. Have fun!
Rule #1: Making yourself at home involves feeling empowered to open the fridge to help yourself to a drink or open the cabinet to grab a snack, rather than waiting for me to serve you. It includes the courtesy of helping to set or clear the table once in a while, loading up the car for the beach, and at least attempting to restrict your mess to your room, rather than in the public areas. Years back, we had guests who apparently thought we were running an inn. At the end of each dinner, after not having lifted a finger to help prepare the wonderful feast, they would yawn, stretch, and excuse themselves to hit the sack, leaving the clean-up to us. Hey, it’s our vacation, too! Needless to say, they’ve never been invited back.
Rule #2: Having fun involves being honest about what you’d like to do. We don’t typically plan an itinerary for our guests, since we can’t control the weather and don’t really want to anticipate what our guests will be in the mood to do. We do our best to hit the beach when the weather’s decent, as everyone can usually find something to do there to be happy. If you’re feeling tired, you can sprawl out on a blanket and snooze. If you’re full of energy, you can bodysurf or boogie-board or fly a kite. In a pensive mood? Take a walk and search for elegant scallop shells. Or we can just sit around on our nylon-lycra-clad arses, sipping whatever contraband libation David has poured into the thermos, gossiping til the sun sets. We tend to favor three of the 10 public beaches, and all have different surf and terrain features. We’re happy to accommodate whichever floats our guests’ boat, and are so glad when they give us a hint as to which they’d prefer.
Going with the flow is crucial to having fun. Again—let me repeat—regardless of all my other superpowers (!!), I do not have any control over the weather. Beyond the beach, there’s admittedly not all that much to do, Nantucket being an island and all. But we love guests who are honest with us about what would make them happy. Wanna go into town and shop? Say the word and we’re off on a spree. Crave fudge? Aunt Leah’s, it is. Ice cream all around? Let’s all wait in line together at the Juice Bar and savor the delectable aroma of the waffle cones being made. We’re always willing to give the Reisers’ Super Island Tour, consisting mostly of houses we almost bought, should’ve bought, and would like someday to buy. (You just have to be a trooper about squeezing 1o or 11 people into the Reisermobile…we’ve looked like the clowns coming out of the taxi on more than one occasion!). And finally, if you just wanna curl up on the couch under a blankie and watch old reruns of the Newlywed Game because you never get to do it at home, you just go right ahead.
Our friends who came to visit during this trip were wonderful company, and despite the cloudy, chilly weather, we had a ball together, doing nothing in particular. We rarely have the luxurious opportunity to spend longer than dinner together, so to be able to catch up over a few days and get to know their terrific kids better was a treat!
Easygoing, polite kids are a blessing as houseguests, and we were delighted to have some awesome youngsters visiting us this summer. My sister’s kids ran joyfully at full-steam from morning til late at night, forgoing naps, lest they should miss out on something chocolate! I only regret I couldn’t accommodate my niece’s request when she looked up at me and said, “Andrea, can we go shopping later?” I asked her what she’d like to shop for, and she replied, “Ummmm, a horsey!” Sorry, honey, but I didn’t think there would be enough room on the ferry for a horsey. Maybe next summer. But we’ll have to start with a pony first.
For years now, nearly every young visitor we’ve hosted has been a pleasure. Many summers ago, however, we had a visit from a family whose young child was a self-entitled, chronically dissatisfied brat. Didn’t particularly like the weather, the beach, the activities, the food, the sleeping accommodations, my kids. When we finally had the pleasure of dropping the family at the ferry for their departure, the parents told the child to thank us. Right in character, the little snot adamantly refused! Mom unapologetically explained that they never pushed their little darling to say something s/he didn’t mean. Hey, everyone’s entitled to raise their kid however they want, but I reserve the right not to have you and your spawn of Satan back. Hope springs eternal, however, that years later, this child has grown into a respectable pre-teen, and abandoned such unbecoming behavior.
Well, that’s my white paper on houseguests. We’re back in Westport now – we opted to abandon the island a day earlier than scheduled to continue our progress settling into the moneypit and embark on the torturous adventure of shopping for school supplies – times four. But that elated squeal you heard wherever you were on Wednesday at 8:17 a.m. Eastern Time? ‘Twas I, as the bus carrying child #4 pulled away from the curb and roared northward up Turkey Hill! School’s in session…yippee!