My mother, who was not a Hilton, taught me the finer points of entertaining guests. “After three days, they start smelling like dead fish,” she’d say. “Throw them out.”
That always worked for her, especially since she never invited humans to stay overnight. But my friend Geri wasn’t blessed with a people-phobic matriarch to guide her. She tried another time-tested method, which is welcoming overnight guests to stay when you won’t be home.
That’s what happened last Christmas, when a friend she hadn’t seen in 35 years needed somewhere to avoid paying for a hotel. Big-hearted Geri left the key to her home—which was so artfully decorated that the local women’s club featured it on their holiday tour—with someone she vaguely remembered from high school.
When Geri returned a few days later, her limited-edition, silver-plated Christmas tree and its Swarovski crystal garland were waiting in the driveway, along with a recliner and two end tables.
Her friend, who had developed a latent talent for interior decorating over the years, thought Geri’s place needed a pop of color, so she replaced “that trashy eyesore” with a fake spruce, Dollar Store balls and enough plastic snowflakes for a blizzard. All that overstuffed furniture just made the living room too crowded, she told Geri, as she handed her a bill for the new, improved tree.
Geri immediately drove her to a Motel 6 and almost stopped the car to let her out.
My neighbor, Chuck, had better luck when he offered his empty house to his sister Lola. She arrived alone, except for her power tools, industrial sewing machine and several hundred bamboo poles.
Lola was very pleased to meet us but couldn’t chat, since she was only going to be around for three days, per the dead-fish rule. She had to build a bed frame and nightstands before sundown or she wouldn’t have time to replace the kitchen cabinets, sew satin duvet covers, remove all the wallpaper and repaint the interior.
No matter what time we peeked out the window, Lola was running laps around the house like an over caffeinated ant. One minute she was hauling poles several times her body weight, the next she was constructing sawhorses in the driveway and rigging power saws. At 2 a.m., she was still wielding a belt sander and putting the Energizer Bunny to shame.
At sunrise, Wonder Woman still had enough energy to put a new roof on the house. (Forget the ladder. She’ll just leap.)
Humiliated, I had to ask how she managed to make every other female on the block feel like the victim of an estrogen-induced coma.
“Dark chocolate Raisinets,” she said. “I take them instead of thyroid pills.”
I ran home to toss my Synthroid and send Lola engraved invitations to my home for Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Yom Kippur, Kwanzaa, Groundhog Day, Halloween, Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day and World Naked Gardening Day. She took one glance inside my house, agreed it was a hardship case and set up her power tools in the guest room.
Chuck’s not happy. He really wanted that roof. But I have more Raisinets—at least enough for three days.
JAN A. IGOE is a writer from Horry County who has left most of the interior decorating to five dogs. All chocolate- powered decorators may request a guest room at HumorMe@SCLiving.coop. Sorry, three-day limit may apply.