Nothing inspires a reluctant housekeeper more than the promise of a houseful of guests. I cleaned and scoured for the first wave of arrivals. A bit worried about the sleeping arrangements as I’d really thought I could get the second guest room ship shape before they came, but alas that was not to be. Every time I had a spare moment, some other catastrophe happened, from the pond on down. I didn’t even get the porch finished, but no matter, I have two capable fold out sofas.
Lisa Gomez also known as, Awesomez, and her children Nick and Lindsey were coming for a two-week family farm vacation. Awesomez has always been known as a tough athlete. She was the quarterback, the point guard or whatever we needed her to be in college. A little known fact about Awesomez (aka Go-Go) is that she’s really quite fragile bordering on wimpy. Oh sure, she's skilled. She could throw the winning throw or hit the hit that would win the game, and probably still can, but she was never as strong as little ole’ can’t-throw-a-softball-me. Poor medal winning thing, she’s a wreck with asthma and accident-prone beyond belief. I prepared my home, trying to remove any glaring obstacles and every single pet hair. A feat of Herculean proportion in a house with five dogs and three cats, but not impossible if you come from German ancestry and drink a lot of coffee.
I didn’t get the sheets on the beds before I had to pick them up at the airport, and thought although kind of weak and sickly, Awesomez is not at all persnickety. I had ‘til Sunday before my self-professed “Ava Gabor” college roommate, June, and her niece descended with Tom and Henry, but when I jumped in my car I knew even benevolent Awesomez couldn’t handle this kind of mess. I quickly drove to the shop and unloaded all the Christmas decorations I’d stored as well as sundry other things I’d put in the back while cleaning out the garage.
Awesomez arrived buying groceries at the market and ready to take care of everybody, as is her nature. Gone is her reckless, brazen side and although she’s still a fierce competitor, now she’s a kinder, gentler Gomez, a maternal Awesomez making sandwiches and waiting on her kids hand and foot, a real old fashioned Harriet Nelson with a tan and a margarita.
Funny how things work out, I thought Lindsey would take to the farm like a fish to water and I was a little worried about Nick. Being fifteen and a half and I wasn’t sure there would be enough to keep him occupied. “Two weeks? My whole summer’s going to be gone!” he complained upon arrival. Nick surprised everyone including himself taking to the farm like a goat to blackberries. He learned to work the tractor and began hauling logs to clear the fence line. He’d be outside for hours, returning covered in sweat and dust for a glass of something cold just to head out again. Lindsey, thirteen and a serious girlie-girl princess-type, was not eager to join in. She was not so thrilled with the various animal droppings dotting the premises nor the butterflies nor the barn swallows or the work. She needed her rest. After some coaxing, goading and coercion she became my barn assistant extraordinaire. In no time she was herding goats and sheep while cooing to Miracle and feeding her four-legged friends barn cookies.
On Friday, we went with Amy to the Bull-A-Rama in Sumas and saw Little Chris Donaldson go 8.25 seconds, milk a wild cow and win $1500.00. It was nothing less than spectacular and I felt so completely proud of Little Chris. Although I worry he won't be able to get out of bed when he's forty.
Saturday Quinn arrived to hang with the kids; Awesomez drove me to work at the Everybody’s Store in my mobile barn and then cleaned the house again in preparation for June’s arrival. I couldn’t believe my eyes when she picked me up in my now immaculate Odyssey. I felt loved. Or was I being criticized? I decided not to care on the advice of my friend, Cynthia Lynn who gave me a stern talking to about learning to accept gifts of kindness from my friends.
Sunday, we didn’t have to pick anyone up from the airport because June was going to rent a car. A car? June, her niece, Carly, Tom and Henry rolled in the driveway in a silver Hummer. So L.A. I laughed to myself as Tom had sworn never ever under any circumstances whatsoever to ride in a Hummer. Never say never. On the way from the airport June had purchased enough groceries and wine for an army, which was good because we were now a group about the size of a battalion.
Excited but a little apprehensive about being away from it all June and Carly were packing Benedryl™ just in case. They really didn’t have to, Awesomez had plenty for everyone. Carly, who marches to the beat of a different drummer made friends with the animals the moment she stepped out of the Hummer. June was almost giddy at the idea her cell phone didn’t work out in the middle of nowhere, but wasn’t so crazy about the smell of the baby chickens and turkeys in the laundry room. She embraced the cowbells that kept Awesomez up the first night and jumped in with both feet wearing her spiffy new farm boots. June happily dug very pristine and straight trenches for the chicken coop foundation wearing her diamond earrings. Having a roomie in college that was 5’12” (as a lady is never 6’) was always handy for reaching out of the way platters, wine glasses and olive oil that’s been put on the top shelf. But June’s vertical prowess was never more impressive than when she started painting the upper chicken coop beams without a ladder.
The first night there was a blow out between the girls, Lindsey and Quinn (Phoebe went home and Carly decided to go Switzerland and sleep with June) and the boys, Nick and Henry that started badly and got worse. It was decided earlier in the week that if there were a time of choice or a treat it would be Nick’s pick as he’d been the workhorse with the logs. This didn’t go over so well with the girls, especially Lindsey.
"But it's not fair Nick's going to always get to choose!" Lindsey said tearfully.
"No that's not true he just gets this one pick Honey" I reassured her.
"Yes he is, because you give rewards for work like a dog getting a treat! And I don't do work!" She cried.
"What? Lindsey, this isn't just the rule at my house this is everywhere, you do work and you get paid."
"But it's not fair!" she insisted.
This was just one of the kinks you have to expect when you have so many people. We had to have some adjustments of expectations, schedules and parenting-styles and we worked things out as sorority sisters do. We had a meeting. Frustrated, disappointed and a little upset with each other, up to the attic we went where we couldn’t be overheard arguing. Naturally, Awesomez didn't want to attend the meeting and arrived last pushed the door open with her glass of wine and announced, “OK we have quorum” sending June and me into a peel of giggles that made me feel seventeen again.
“Oh Gogs you still roll me!” June declared wiping her tears. We prepared a weekly schedule and set the tone for the trip. The troops would do chores in the morning, something fun, and communal dinners where the adults would get loopy from all the glorious wines June provided. There wasn’t just one Pinot; there were a plethora of Pinots and Chiantis and Cabs.
June, a problem solver and world-class diplomat, went out with the girls on a run to town while the rest of us worked around the farm on the chicken coop. As a surprise June/Spoon bought five, count them five air mattresses with air pumps, pillows and matching linens completely transforming the attic into a kind of beautiful barracks – fit for Private Benjamin. Who says money can’t buy happiness? Or at least a little peace and quiet.