Many people don’t travel far for a getaway. Fifty percent of our guests live in Connecticut. I begin to recognize the value in a quiet escape from the hectic lives we lead. A picnic by a river, a good live music show, a trip to a local art museum, a mountain hike. Sleeping late in a large four poster bed or reading a book by the fireplace. Although I will always love visiting new places, there is something to be said for a quiet, stress free trip a short drive from home but miles from everyday life.
A memorial service is being held at the inn today. It was booked before we started the job and we do not have to work it. The former innkeeper and the caterers arrive just as we finish cleaning up from breakfast. A doyenne of the town makes her way into the kitchen, asking for one percent milk as opposed to half and half.
I am mortified.
I have scrubbed the baseboards, the chair rails, the shelves in the pantry, and the black spots on the kitchen cabinets that I thought were knots in the wood but instead were grease. Rich washed the floor five times, turning buckets of soapy water black. I know how clean this kitchen now is but the fake brick linoleum floor is worn in spots. The cabinet doors don’t shut properly, the paint is no longer fresh. I am extremely uncomfortable with guests wandering in here.
“Didn’t she see the Private sign on the pantry door? What if she notices the floor?”
Rich shrugs. “It’s not my floor.”
But like the folks who believe the Iraq war is now President Obama’s war, the Inn’s floor is now our floor. Years of dirt and grease now belong to us. Or maybe it’s me. As the female of the species, I know these household inadequacies belong to me. When would anyone ask, “Did you see that guy’s kitchen? What a slob.”
When my parents first met my mother-in-law, the women got to talking about housekeeping. My housekeeping. I have always worked full time. Rich and I lived in an old house built in 1728. We had wood stoves. Dust was a constant battle. Rich never noticed the trail of wood chips from the kitchen door to the hearth, or the dust this source of heat creates.
They both agreed housekeeping was not my forte, but somehow my mother also had to add, “Well, she didn’t get it from me.”
She took my mediocre housekeeping skills as a statement on the way she might have raised me or on her own housekeeping skills, which wasn’t true at all because my mother’s housecleaning bordered on obsessive compulsive. Nonetheless, she felt the need to defend herself.
Rich wasn’t phased by the doyenne in the kitchen. He didn’t need to be. This was Sheila’s kitchen floor.
A former innkeeper must have had a problem with finding the trash barrel. The drawers are filled with empty battery packages, chargers for non-existent items, warranties and instruction manuals for ancient appliances, empty light bulb boxes. Who keeps these things? Who puts them back in the drawer? I find price tags and those little plastic things that hold them to the dress or the shirt or whatever they were attached to. Dead cigarette lighters. Old, dirty half melted candles. If I do find a lightbulb in a box I shake it to my ear to check if it’s broken. Fifty percent of the time it is.
I suppose these are now Sheila’s drawers. But Sheila knows where the trash barrel is. She drags it into the pantry and starts emptying the drawers of trash.
I fill a pitcher with water, lift it from the sink, and the bottom spills out soaking my jeans.
My daughter and I find a large water dispenser. We come up with the brilliant idea of serving flavored water like they do at fancy hotels and health spas. I slice limes while she goes out to the garden to snip spearmint. We load the dispenser with ice and cold water and bring it out to the main room. An hour later the table is soaked. The water dispenser has a slow leak.
A few days later we find water dispensers on sale at BJ’s. The following weekend we make orange strawberry water. I post a picture on Facebook, introducing Michelle’s flavored water. From my ankles to my floors to just about everything else, the tune of Bob Dylan’s song returns: everything is broken. It might be safer giving someone else credit for the improvements.