Those who’ve managed to keep tabs on the coordinates of my far-flung family know I have a husband in Colorado, a daughter with me in Florida and another daughter in Texas allegedly attending college.
It’s complicated, and just got more complicated.
The Texas daughter now has a boyfriend. (The nerve!) Holding up the family tradition of not living in the same state as your significant other, she’s chosen a young man who lives in Colorado. There he also allegedly attends college, though I’m not sure how given all the time he spends texting and calling Paige.
They met last summer at a camp where they both worked as counselors. Unlike most teen summer romances, this one did not fade by Thanksgiving. Now The Boyfriend is coming to Florida for Thanksgiving.
And not just for dinner -- for the week!
Over the past few months, I have taken comfort in knowing my daughter’s romantic interest lives several states away, where he should stay, until she’s about 33, so she can get some studying done.
“Sure, he can visit, honey,” I say when Paige asks if she can invite Him to Florida. “Where will he stay?”
“We have a guest room!” she says.
“Right. Of course.”
Just then my stomach releases three gallons of hydrochloric acid. I am not prepared to add this dimension to my family life.
I’ve had lots of houseguests over the years, but a boyfriend houseguest? Never. I begin to seriously rethink the guest room. Rather than fret about the condition and quantity of down pillows and sheets, I contemplate surveillance cameras and motion detectors.
Paige will stay in her room upstairs. The Boyfriend will sleep in the guest room downstairs. Between them lies a set of ancient wooden stairs, which creak like a graveyard gate. I picture ways I can booby trap them – wax them and rig them with a string of tin cans.
My husband, Dan, who will be in the house, will be the bouncer. Never mind that The Boyfriend, whom I have only seen on Skype, appears to have arms bigger than Dan’s legs, and could pick him up with his teeth.
“Bring your shotgun,” I tell Dan.
“I don’t have one.”
“To protect your daughter’s virtue.”
“I’ll never get it through security.”
“You explain to TSA that a 19-year-old young man is staying in the house with your 19-year-old daughter, and the agent will make an exception.”
It’s not that I don’t trust my daughter. I do. (Him, I’m not so sure.) But I also know that the line between trust and denial is thinner than a butterfly’s wing.
Just witness all those parents who assure you their teens don’t drink or party. Next thing you see the kid’s Facebook status. They’re passed out on some bed, and you think I want some of what that parent’s having.
“Mom, he’s a perfect gentleman. A gem. You’ll love him.”
“I’ve ordered a straight jacket.”
“Please, don’t embarrass me.”
“Two straight jackets.”
“Don’t worry, dear. I’ll have the guest room all ready.”
Motion lights are going in this week.
Regardless of who’s visiting you this holiday season, it’s a good time to give the guest room a once over to make sure it has the essentials, plus a few tailored touches depending on the guest. Here a few of my tips, along with some from Sally Morse, director of creative services for Hunter Douglas, a leading maker of window coverings:
• Storage space . Guests don’t usually want to look like slobs, but they will if you don’t give them space to put their stuff. Clear out the closet. Leave some good hangers. If the room has a dresser, empty a couple drawers. Install hooks behind doors for coats, purses and towels. If space is tight, a folding luggage rack would be welcome.
• A well-dressed bed. All-cotton, high-thread count white sheets, please. Layers are luscious, and down is dreamy.
• Privacy. The room should have window coverings that not only add a decorative touch, but also provide privacy and light control, says Morse.
• Layered lighting. In addition to overhead light, have a lamp on the bedside table, one the guest can reach from the bed. A nightlight will help guests find their way in the dark.
• Dual purpose. If your guest room doubles as a home office, gym or den, move out or hiding the non-bedroom items. Put the stationary bike in the garage, and the files in a covered basket. Try to make the conversion to a bedroom as convincing as you can.
• Mirrors. Most guests appreciate a good mirror, ideally full-length, in their room or in an adjacent bathroom, Morse said.
• Seasonal flowers. Fresh or even dried flowers, like hydrangeas, which last much longer, and add an elegant, vintage touch, say welcome. A bowl of holiday potpourri or pinecones with sprigs of pine and berries feels festive.
• Welcome basket . Put one in the room filled with granola bars, nuts, water bottles, fresh crisp apples, and a few magazines.
• Added security. If your guest happens to be romantically interested in someone in the house, install motion lights, and laser-beamed security sensors that summon police and trip traps that cage the midnight wanderer and douse him in cold water.