Column: Dealing with guests courteously, and smartly, is a must

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 11, 2002

Last week I made a horrifying discovery. I am a TV addict. It crept up on me gradually and with such subtlety that until I was well enslaved I didn’t really notice. From time to time I did realize that I wasn’t accomplishing as much in my day’s work as I used to. I put it down to old age. Then I began to take note of how I actually spent my time. Horrors!

So today, as the first step toward freeing myself from my incubus, I’m staying upstairs where there is no television. I rather hate missing breakfast but I shall make up for it at lunch.

All this I share with you, because I tend to get a bit morose and grouchy when I miss my breakfast and even more so when I miss &uot;Murder She Wrote.&uot; So if the column today seems full of snarls and hisses, please make allowances.

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Throughout my life I’ve never met anyone who didn’t seem important to me. I have a religious conviction that anyone who crosses your path has been sent to you for a reason.

With my first prayers I also learned the dictum, &uot;Welcome the stranger and speed the parting guest.&uot; I didn’t quite understand the last part of that. It sounded to me as if you were trying to get rid of your guest as rapidly as possible.

It was explained to me, though, that &uot;speed&uot; was actually an abbreviation of &uot;Godspeed&uot; and that your guest was leaving with prayers for his good fortune, prosperity, happiness and safety.

I had a good friend who told me that one of his great-aunts always said to a departing guest, &uot;Well it was good to see you come, but it’s good to see you go again.&uot;

I confess that during my childhood I had pretty much the same sentiments about one or two of our visiting relatives. It was not a sentiment I was stupid enough to share. In my maturity I am saddened by the quiet that lingers when house guests make their departure. That sadness, I think, lies at the root of my too much exposure to television. Human voices, even those expressing opinions with which I passionately disagree, give me a cheerful sense of well being.

One of my mother’s elder sisters was always regarded as something of an airhead by the rest of the family. Even in her old age, though, she was much sought after. Following the death of her husband, a railroad man, she was wooed by more than one eligible suitor.

Because she was a bit on the helpless side and her followers were eligible the family rather encouraged a re-marriage. All in vain, though.

&uot;They’re all very attractive men,&uot; she explained, &uot;but none of them work for the railroad and I’m used to riding on a pass.&uot;

In the spring of 1947, when Aunt Edith’s husband was still alive, relatives from California and western Nebraska were coming home to visit her and she telephoned my mother to insist that we come too.

When we got there, she was still getting in touch with other relatives inviting them to come and join the rest of us. Her house was not large and I was bewildered by the number of people she was reaching out to.

&uot;Hadn’t we better make a list and figure out where you’re going to put everybody?&uot; I asked.

She regarded me as if I were a bit dimwitted. &uot;Of course not. There’s absolutely no place to put everyone who’s coming. But once they’re here and see that I don’t know what to do about it, they’ll figure something out and I want them all together.&uot;

Then she gave me a beautiful piece of advice. Had I followed it my parents would have disowned me: &uot;Work a little harder at being stupid, my dear. You can’t imagine how it simplifies life.&uot;

Just for the record, though several of us wound up sleeping on the floor, we all had a wonderful time.

Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.