No one will ever confuse me with Martha Stewart. I don’t understand people who make their own soap when there are Targets, and organizing my closet means shutting the door. I have two dogs whose missions in life are to shed as much hair as possible and slobber on anything not covered by an old bath towel. If the house doesn’t smell like a disreputable pet store, I’m happy. Unfortunately, this attitude can clash with a favorite social activity, the dinner party. Given my blasé approach to housecleaning, such occasions require several days of intensive preparation. I’m O.K. with hubby lint rolling dog hair tumbleweeds off his clothes after five minutes on the couch, but I prefer maintaining the House Beautiful illusion for guests. This is especially important if the guests aren’t the typical assortment of artistic neurotics usually found drinking my Three Buck Chuck, but are guests I want to impress, guests more along the lines of Ted and Betsy Lewin, Caldecott award winners.
Mary Wong, a librarian and children’s art collector, asked if I’d escort the Lewins to one of their school visits and have them over for dinner while they were in town. Mary knows everyone in the biz and frequently throws dinner parties involving multiple courses for visiting authors and illustrators at her dog-free, and thus immaculate, house. Mary sets the bar high, and Thursday, my day with the Lewins, was fast approaching.
Tuesday evening, I surveyed the scene. I needed to run the vacuum, but decided to wait so that the dogs would have the minimum amount of time to strew hair and assorted vegetation from the yard all over the house. The floor resembled a stuffed toy killing field, with the recently purchased three pack of migratory birds plucked and disemboweled across the living room. I had begun setting the table, spending a long time first locating the cloth napkins that only saw the light of day on major holidays, and then deciding whether the odd marks on them were stains or part of the pattern.
I had worked out that afternoon, and figured that was more than enough license to make the chocolate hazelnut brownies I was planning for desert on Thursday, and employ my tried and true baking technique of two thirds batter in the pan, one third in me. I debated over tackling the three week pile of ironing over the back of the dining room chair, or giving my full attention to Wheel of Fortune. The ironing had just won out when the door bell rang.
“Six-thirty on a Tuesday, who the…aarrgghh, I bet its Jehovah’s Witnesses, they are always bugging us, ringing the doorbell…” I usually try to be polite to the peddlers of salvation that show up on my front porch, I mean it can’t hurt, covering one’s proverbial butt, but tonight I was sweaty, covered in dog hair and most likely sporting a chocolate mustache, the elastic in my workout duds was threatening to give way at any moment, and I still had fifteen Post- It notes worth of preparations to do. I was in NO MOOD to smile and pretend I could ever conceivably join a religion that didn’t celebrate birthdays.
“Could you answer that?” I asked hubby, who was wrestling the little dog, shearing off the three months worth of coat that had turned an English Cocker into something resembling a dust mop with eyes. Hubby looked at me and then down at the giant clumps of hair that covered him from crotch to neck like a Sasquatch with mange, and that pretty much gave me my answer.
I stalked off, scraping my stringy hair back with a headband that doubled as a dog chew and flung the front door open, ready to send some unsuspecting Witnesses scurrying back down my driveway.
Except it wasn’t the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It wasn’t the Mormons. It wasn’t even some kid selling magazine subscriptions in a valiant effort to keep himself off drugs. No, it was Mary Wong. And the Lewins.
For a split second I thought maybe it was Thursday. Oh my god it’s Thursday. I forgot. I forgot to take them to their school visit! They’re here to yell at me, tell me what a bad, bad person I am, how I ruined their trip…no, no wait, it’s not Thursday. It’s Tuesday. It’s Tuesday.
“It’s Tuesday,” I proclaimed to Mary. “Tuesday!”
“Yes,” she said, “dinner was Tuesday.”
“Thursday,” I sputtered, “dinner, Thursday,” my growing embarrassment rendering me incapable of complete sentences.
“No, dinner was on Tuesday, the school visit is Thursday,” Mary said again, no doubt wondering how she had managed to miss my obvious below average intelligence up until this point.
For another brief moment I contemplated faking it. Oh, of course it’s today, hahaha, got ya! But considering I was not wearing a bra and had my thick black glasses on, which when I’m dressed up look chic, but paired with a sweat-stained tank top and saggy shorts make me look like a Florida retiree circa 1957, I decided to just surrender and admit I had flaked.
I broke the land speed record for changing into something more presentable while hubby whisked the ironing and dog clippings into dark corners and managed to go from Phoenix Suns gorilla lookalike to mild-mannered English professor faster than the Sauvignon Blanc could be uncorked. I threw together a pasta puttanesca, some garlic bread and salad and was grateful for the chocolate monkey on my back that had prodded me to bake the brownies. The Lewins and Mary graciously overlooked the dog hair tumbleweeds, the drool stains on the old blanket that covers the “good”, equally stained couch, and laughed and ate and drank and told stories on the patio under the star-filled Arizona sky. It was a perfect evening.