welcome-matHaving houseguests sets off a frenzy of cleaning and preparing, causing me to look around my home more critically and wonder “how are we living like this?” The quiet collections of dust and crumbs, the piles of unfolded clothes, and stacks of papers seem to suddenly appear in bright spotlights everywhere I turn. When did the Cat in the Hat, along with Thing One and Thing Two sneak in and do all of this?

Our modest second bedroom is perfect for a guest, but it is also a magnet for all of the detritus that doesn’t have a home, or that I drop in a weak moment and should have put away. The room acts as an office, so bills and paperwork naturally accumulate – until every surface is covered. It’s so much easier to close the door than straighten and file. So now it is transformed back to a bedroom – the bed is fitted with linens, space is cleared for a suitcase, and there’s a slot in the closet to hang a coat.

Over the years I’ve been happy to have our children’s friends come over to our house. Beyond being hospitable, it’s a great way to get to know the kids, putting faces with the names I’d hear about from school or camp. Whether for an after school study session, dinner, or the occasional slumber party, it was fun to have people over. Some kids came so often they might call me mom, hug me, or even help with small chores.

We’ve also had guests for extended periods, hosting foreign students or teachers. The biggest commitment was to a wonderful Vietnamese student who lived with us for 4 months. Her arrival coincided with our son’s departure for college – threatening to make him feel that we replaced him – but it was a special experience, and gave our daughter a sister.

This weekend we welcome a friend of our son’s, visiting Chicago for a few days. He’s stayed with us before and we are happy to see him again. We aren’t running a bed and breakfast, nor are we an Airbnb property – it’s just nice to help out a young man finding his way after college.

Spring is here, the official start of the season for visiting Chicago. Come on down – we’ve got a spare room ready.


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