When your House Guests Leave Unmentionables

We’ve had house guests leave everything from a bottle of wine to a box of designer chocolates to a card as a thank-you. I’ve been fine with all of these. Okay, truth be told, at first I was a tad peeved about the card, but that’s only because relatives stayed for an entire week, treated our guest house like a frat house, and left us with dozens of empty beer cans; but after I used the redemption money from their beer cans to buy scratch tickets and won enough to pay for a deep tissue massage and a facial, I was no longer irritated about the card.

I wasn’t feeling quite so forgiving last summer. A friend came with her two daughters for a week. The morning after they left, she called.

“Are you sitting down?” she asked. “I feel terrible, but I have to tell you this. We all have lice.” Then she added, “We had a great time seeing you guys.” The gift of lice is by far the most audacious thank-you we’ve received. My husband and I spent the better part of the next two weeks doing laundry and picking nits out of our daughter’s hair. It was also the most memorable thank-you.

When you say, “I’ve got house guests” to a Vineyarder, it’s code for, “Friends have arrived. It was great having them here until they tracked sand through the house and abandoned the beach towels in the middle of the living room floor. Of course, just when I was about to lose it, they cooked us a dinner inspired either by angels or the great chefs of Italy. The next day they used different towels and the pile in the middle of the floor grew larger. But then we shared a bottle of wine under a sky freckled with stars and realized our house guests were the best friends we’ve ever had, until that is, they put more towels in the pile and we couldn’t wait for them to leave.”

“I’ve got house guests,” is a loaded four words.

We’ve all shared tales about the ins and outs of the house-guest experience, but rarely do we discuss the post-partum details. They leave, and after kisses and hugs, we return to their room to discover what’s been left behind, inadvertently, and what’s been left behind as a thank-you gesture. The forgotten remnants of a vacation range from toothbrushes to cameras to sunglasses to books. And then there’s that one item that almost everyone who’s visited us has left behind.

The first few times I found it, I wasn’t sure what course of action to take. Should I send it back? Should I throw it out? Should I wait to return it the next time they visit? Until recently, I opted for throwing it out and never mentioning it. But now it’s happened so often I’ve started thinking that it could be interesting to start a collection. Our house guests seem to have a truly astonishing array of sizes and colors. I’m talking about the pair of underwear I inevitably find hanging on the inside of the bathroom doorknob.

I’m not really likely to start a collection. But I admit finding the underwear on the doorknob has become an event that makes me happy. It reminds me of all the wet towels, the great meals, the fun, and the frustrations. No, it’s not as nice as a bottle of wine or the box of gourmet chocolate or the sweet note in a card, but it sure beats lice.

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