Room with a View…But Where Are the Guests?

I always aspired to have a guest room. That’s what you are supposed to do, I quickly learned from the part Jackie Kennedy/part Harriet Nelson-tinged set of lifestyle goals indoctrinated in me as a young girl. When you could wholeheartedly refer to a part of your house as the guest room, it was official: you had made it.

So when my husband and I finally decided to become permanently indebted to the Bank of Owe-Us-For-Life, I began envisioning that extra bedroom. We would have guests there at a minimum every other month, maybe even monthly. I would add the spare mini-fridge, leave dark chocolate Doves on the pillows and set up a customized treasure trove of toiletries laid out in the adjacent guest bathroom, creating what could only be regarded as a Xanadu of lavatories. And then there was the guest book. I spent hours and hours picking out the perfect guest book and pen to prop up on the dresser, greeting visitors with a perky hello and strict instructions to unpack and settle in…pronto!

We prepared the guest room. We set up the welcoming accessories. Heck, we even had the room painted professionally, because this is something that I am incapable of doing myself. I can pick a color. I can even carry the cans and brushes, but the lifting of a brush and stroking it along the wall, this I cannot do.

Who wouldn’t want to stay in this 12-foot by 9-foot oasis, I thought to myself, bathed in a pale delicate peach, walls adorned with some of my favorite Italian prints from my college European study tour, like Raphael’s Angels and Botticelli’s Venus, and flanked by earthy images of Rome, Florence and the Tuscan countryside. Aah, I could smell the Mediterranean air already. Then again, maybe it was the bouquet of fragrant candles or the rest of its scented sisters stuffed into the top dresser drawer so one could not possibly run out of the scintillating vapors of vanilla, hazelnut berry or grapefruit. Trust me, if they had basil, oregano and parmesan pillars at Yankee Candle, I would have been first in line. Or maybe it was just the smell of fresh paint.

As we created this inviting Eden, I’m thoroughly convinced that between the aromatic arsenal of candles, fridge stocked with bottled water and Barefoot Moscato and bevy of blankets peeking out of the closet, this room has all of the makings of a comfortable guest room…or a really good bomb shelter, in case we should ever need that, too…looking past the whole above-ground aspect, of course. And the guests came – eventually – but not nearly as many as I had imagined, and so infrequently. I was baffled. I believed the babble that if I built it, they would come. I now knew I could never trust a Kevin Costner film again, not even No Way Out and that had offered me much comfort after many bad dates, if only for the limo scene alone.

I quickly realized that my desire to host guests had reached epic levels of ludicrousness; perhaps, I had even dipped my pinky toe a wee bit into self-pity. I had to remind myself that just because we now officially owned a guest room (well, technically, the bank did), it did not necessarily mean that guests would be standing in line to visit us. Within a few years, I made an important decision.

I was worthy of being a guest in my own house, and damn it, I would do so.

I realized that I had set myself up for when-they-came failure for years. I would buy pretty things and leave them in the guest bathroom baskets for others to use when they came. I would fill up the candy dish with the richest, most luscious caramels and truffles that I never bought myself and would lay out the softest sheets and plump pillows for others to enjoy when they came. And I thought to myself, wait a second, I live here and that elusive “they” were not coming – at least not as often as I had expected. So what if I were to stop by for a visit to the guest room myself? I could steal a few winks on those comfy bed cushions and linens and pop into the powder room to lavish some of that TLC on myself. And the chocolates…I could definitely take care of the chocolates.

Five years have passed since my revelation, and yes, we have been visited by guests during that time, and I’ve never stopped pampering them when they do arrive. But the guest room and I have come to a new understanding. In this sacred space, I have still welcomed family and friends to spend a vacation or share a weekend with my family. But as I’ve let go of my preconceived notions of what that little Florentine room at the end of the hall should mean, I have uncovered something unexpected: a personal refuge. Call it my “woman-cave.” In this room, I have cried over lost jobs, fretted about unpaid bills and gazed out of the window for hours at the squirrels and birds in our backyard, getting lost in their little world revolving around the birdbath as I tried to better understand my own wacky whirlpool. And I have gotten nostalgic over thirtysomething DVDs, whipped up fabulous surprise party ideas and celebrated victories big and small– new stories assigned to me, new clients who want to collaborate, new lessons learned about working on my own and holding myself accountable for my success or its arrogant, less attractive brother.

If you want to stay at my house, the comfy pillows and sheets, scented candles and stocked candy dish – all of them are still here and they’re waiting, along with the welcoming arms. I will have to relocate the laptop, change the sheets where I took a catnap yesterday, and probably refill the candy dish.

There is a little less of the Moscato, too, but we can fix that.

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