Cleaning Countdown

There’s nothing like an upcoming houseguest to make you realize how dirty your home is. We’re a fairly clean family; the dishes are done after every meal, the carpet has clean spots, and I sometimes throw cleanser in the toilet. All in all, I’d be comfortable having friends over for dinner, but not the Queen of England. When my German cousin asked if he could come visit after a business trip to Seattle, I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough. I hadn’t seen Joe in more than ten years! A decade ago, we were both unmarried and childless. Now here we are with mortgages, kids, and in my case, twenty pounds of baby weight that refuses to budge.

When I was younger, visits from our German family were lots of fun. My mother would flutter around the house for weeks beforehand, tidying, dusting, and organizing — sometimes unnecessarily. “Ma,” I asked her, “why’re you organizing your sock drawer?” Elbow deep in poly-cotton blends, my mom didn’t look up when she said, “you never know.” “I’m pretty sure you DO know,” I replied, “if your sister comes over from Germany and looks in your sock drawer, I’ll be very surprised.” Mom gave me a withering look and moved on to systemizing her pantyhose.

With time ticking down to Joe’s visit, I tackled the guest room. It should’ve been simple, but once again, nothing ever is. All the books that didn’t fit on the shelves had to go somewhere, and to make them fit in the closet my wedding dress was shuffled down to my two-year-old son’s closet (he doesn’t use it). Then I had to move parts of his unassembled racecar bed into my five-year-old daughter’s closet (she never goes in it) and my afternoon turned into one big Tetris game. Two hours later, the books were still on the guest room floor, but I’d reorganized the garage and found nine missing socks.

Many, many misadventures later, the house was finally ready. The toilets were clean, the shelves were dusted, and I’d even managed to wash the dog (much to his chagrin). My sock drawer was still unorganized, but I didn’t tell my mother. Finally, the day came, and Joe knocked on the door! After a flurry of hugs, tears, and bewildered looks from the kids, my husband Jeremy and I ushered Joe into the living room. “Wow, this place looks great!” Joe exclaimed, and I flushed with pride. “There’s just one thing,” I said, and Joe looked at me curiously, “don’t look in my sock drawer!”