visitors leave their mark

The house looks like a college dorm. Towels drape over the corners of the bedroom and closet doors. Neat piles of papers have staked a claim on the dining room table. A case of Ramen noodles is stashed in the kitchen cupboard. A mountain bike leans against the fence.
Birkenstocks sandals trip me up as I make my way through the house in the early morning hours looking for the day’s newspaper. A pair of navy-blue pillows mysteriously appeared out of nowhere one day and settled on the couch. I think they belong to the invisible owners of the neatly folded laundry spread across the ottoman.
Before my daughter visited last week, I tucked all the evidence of a college dorm into the back bedroom. Nonetheless shortly after she arrived she still teasingly noted, “It smells like a guy’s college dorm room.”
Not that I’m not complaining. The couple of guys who came to stay for a few weeks have been most respectful … especially considering that there are three of them staying until mid-August. They come in very late each night and leave very early each morning, usually before I get up. Mostly, I sit on the sidelines and watch, amused at the energy they bring to the house.
Or as I told my sister in a mock, quavering old-person’s voice, “I just like to have the young folks around. They bring life to the house.”
These three have been the easiest house guests. They take care of their own meals, enjoy any baking or left-overs I invite them to enjoy and take care of their own laundry.
Other than clearing out their excess from the living room when company is coming, I don’t worry about their clutter anymore than I do my own. I know it will get taken care of in time. I close the door to the trail they leave in their room each morning and let them sort out the debris.
When the granddaughters came after the guys had settled in, they immediately reported, “Grandma! There are signs all over the bathroom.” They ignored the men’s zippered toiletry bags lined up around the sink and saw only the colorful signs of admonitions for positive attitudes and right thoughts taped to the mirrors and walls around the shaving arena.
“The signs remind them how to think,” I explained.
The girls looked at me skeptically, said nothing else and went to silently read the signs.
Over the course of the next few days, we left the doll house on the coffee table for a few days. The guys made their way around it. The Barbie dolls, hotel, boat and pizza parlor and clothes took over the entire end of the rug in the living room one night. The guys came in, did paperwork and flopped down for a short night’s sleep, stored papers back in their bedroom and said nothing about the doll houses until Saturday night.
The girls had left that afternoon, so I tucked everything back into cupboards and storage boxes.
One guy noticed the cleared room. “Are the girls gone?”
“Yes, for now.”
The next morning, as my husband and I prepared to leave, we noted neatly stacked piles on the dining room table.
If we need the space, we’ll tell them. For now, we appreciate the reality that two old folks just don’t keep enough clutter to make a house as interesting as when young folks share our space.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. She can be reached at






2 responses to “visitors leave their mark”

  1. j_bo Avatar

    Now I’m curious, what are these guys doing? I’m tempted to guess that they’re mormon missionaries, but I know better….jim

    1. jottingjoan Avatar

      books salesmen

      The guys are college kids selling books for Southwestern books. Decades ago the Bible School students, future ministers used to go around and sell Bibles and Bible Study books from this company.
      These guys sell educational books and dress like college guys (jeans, t-shirts, backward hats and scruffy sneakers), not like Mormons (white shirts, ties and dark slacks).
      One inspected my collection of garage sale books and pointed out that we already owned at a few of their science books for elementary students.

      One of the guys packed his bags and caught a flight home today. 80 work weeks and Sundays spent catching up … after half a day of pep talks was not his idea of how to spend a summer. (Not mine either.) He got a ride to the airport with a man he met selling books. The man and his wife had brought him a bunch of snacks to enjoy last week … some Christian do-gooders who took pity on the guy. In the realm of 6 degrees separating us … the do-gooders knew my son Mert.