Housesitting and Disorientation
It’s Not My Home
My younger sister is now an empty-nester. Her son went away to college in Minneapolis (Augsburg) last week, leaving her with the dogs and a big house, and a fiancé. We were over visiting them on Labor Day, and it was a celebration of my birthday and my son’s birthday. We lit a fire in the backyard, ate some steak kebab and shrimp pancakes, told stories and played guitar. It was a typical gathering for our two families, except that her son wasn’t present.
They had neglected to tell me that it was to be her fiancé’s birthday on Friday, and he turned fifty.
On Friday afternoon he left a panicked voice mail message for me, which at first caused alarm because in the phone tree system we have, he is the one who contacts me if Dad is having health problems that need to be discussed. Dad’s health has been worsening since Mom died nearly three years ago, so I get upset whenever I think that something serious might be happening to him.
Ross’s voicemail was urgent, but not as urgent as I had feared when I first dialed into my phone to listen. He and my sister needed someone to dog and house sit for the weekend while they took a trip to Chicago to see his family and just basically have some fun for his birthday.
So, I thought a bit about what I needed to do this weekend. I didn’t have any big plans, and decided to help them out. I called him to talk about it, and he said that in their planning, they had completely forgotten about lining up someone to take care of the dogs and cat while they were away. My sister was close to the point of staying home while he went.
So I agreed. I have a custody arrangement with my ex-wife so that my kids are with me three weekends each month and this is one of the weekends I have them. My kids are teenagers and don’t need a lot of feeding and watering, but they do need adult supervision. I can’t leave them at my apartment alone for a whole weekend, so I explained to them what was up for the weekend.
At first, they were excited because they love my sister’s house. It is far more spacious than my apartment. My sister has a big old comfy bed that my daughter likes to snuggle into for sleeping. It’s better than her own bed. Her television is bigger than my own. She has a lot more food in her fridge than I usually have.
But there are a few things that she doesn’t have that we have at home. She doesn’t have a network cable within reach of her television and my son realized that he won’t be able to play network games on his new PS3, which for him is a downer.
I also discovered–actually I remembered–that my sister is a real cook. She doesn’t buy her food the way that I do. I am a “mix” cook, and she is an “ingredient” cook. She actually has cookbooks and reads recipes and buys the components of her meals in parts rather than wholes.
I buy spaghetti sauce by the jar, she buys cans of tomato sauce and paste and spice and garlic cloves and onions and all the stuff that is so conveniently packaged for me in glass with a lid. When I make supper, I am creative, at times, in how I put mixes together. But I don’t really know how to start from scratch.
Last night we went to Wendy’s for dinner. The kids were okay with that for last night. This morning, I am not sure what to do about lunch and dinner. I found some eggs and I can scramble them. I found her waffle iron, but in place of a pancake or waffle mix, I found flour and eggs and baking powder and a whole bunch of stuff which Betty Crocker combines for me.
I need some coffee. I have found a big bag of Sumatra beans, and a grinder. But I haven’t been able to find her coffee maker. I feel disoriented. It’s not so much that I need my stimulant; it’s a departure from my basic routine. I make coffee and drink a few cups before I wake up the kids. It’s what I do nearly every morning, and I am separated from it.
Several years ago, I was dating a woman whose friend has a farmhouse near Northfield, Minnesota. She was asked to housesit for a weekend while her friend was out of town. She invited me down for the weekend with her, and I quickly agreed. The house had been restored, adding modern conveniences (like a shower), while retaining the charms of a 19th century country home. Her friend owned about ten acres of woods and grassland.
It was cozy on the cold winter nights, and I loved the house. But the house was not my home, and I felt like an intruder in many ways. I didn’t really know the owner all that well, and I was afraid to touch things. I didn’t want to leave marks or a mess, and I certainly didn’t want to break anything. I was ambivalent about my time there, because while I was enjoying myself, I wasn’t at home.
This weekend is giving me the same feeling about not being at home. Sure, it’s my sister’s place and I have been here many times before. I love the dogs and the cat. It’s just not my place. It’s my sister’s place.
Staying at a hotel or a motel is more comfortable than staying in someone else’s home. In a hotel room, or suite, while I am there, it is a strange sort of home. I don’t have to worry about leaving things the way they were when I got there. I can relax and head down to the pool.
Staying at someone else’s place while they aren’t there is disorienting. I would rather be at home. I made some scrambled eggs for breakfast, but my son was upset that there was no ketchup on the fridge. I am using someone else’s computer to write this. I took a bath this morning instead of a shower.
My apartment is not a great apartment. It can get crowded with only three people there. When I am there, I know where things are. I know the channels on the TV and how to work the remotes. I don’t have to “guess” at so many things. It would be better if the homeowner were here and I could ask her questions, but now I have to feel my way around someone else’s home.
The original plan was to stay down here this whole weekend, but we decided to go eat, take the dogs for a walk and then make sure that they have enough food to eat. We’ll come back here in the morning (I have to drop my son off for school anyway and his school is close by). We’ll let the dogs out for a bit, and then I will be back to normal.
I want to go home.
This entry was posted on Monday, September 14th, 2009 at 6:07 am and is filed under Mike Haubrich. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.