A Middle-Aged Woman Gets Ready to Party!
By:  Mary Fran Bontempo

It all starts at the curbside.

There’s the dandelion forest overwhelming the front lawn, abutting the currently vacant former flower bed, now bare and brown (and looking eerily like a large burial plot) but for a few spare weeds. The front porch offers parched and weathered rockers along with a beat-up old bench, all practically screaming for the relief offered by a thirst quenching coat of fresh paint.

Open the front door and come face to face with a nicked, knocked and scraped up entry hall and staircase wall, anointed with fingerprints, scuff marks and more than a few cast-off dried mud droplets from the coat of one very messy dog. Woodwork? In need of a cleaning and paint. Floors? Crying out for a spa treatment combining a good scrubbing, waxing and buffing. Rugs? Dirty. Lampshades? Dusty. Wall art? Begging for Windex.

No, this is not some vacant tenement up for sheriff’s sale. Nor is it a run down residence on one of those fix-it-up and sell it for three times what you paid programs on television.

This is my home, or at least what my home looks like to me now that we’re on “Countdown to Party” time.

Any time one invites guests into one’s home, a flurry of cleansing and sanitizing inevitably takes place. In fact, sometimes guests provide the necessary excuse to execute a much needed purging of the cast-off effects of daily life. (I have one friend whose children immediately get suspicious when she grabs a bucket and mop. “Who’s coming over?” they ask.) But there’s something about a full scale party which brings out the burly, bald-headed, earring-wearing Mr. Clean in me.

No surface avoids scrutiny, no corner or crevice remains unnoticed. It may have something to do with the fact that most of our family parties generally take place in the spring and often during the day, when bright sunshine illuminates every glaring imperfection, real or imagined.

So about a month prior to the dreaded…er…highly anticipated soiree, I begin critiquing. It’s a long and lonely process, made more so by the fact that no other member of my immediate family notices anything wrong with anything, especially anything they may be called upon to fix, clean or replace. I, on the other hand, notice something wrong with just about everything. Thus ensue the negotiations—my list of what I want done vs. the family’s list of what they can get away with.

My wish list goes something like this: 1. Re-sod entire front and back lawn. 2. Excavate front flower bed; add five inches of topsoil; drop half a mortgage payment at local nursery for expensive plants and shrubs; cover new flower bed with twenty bags of stinky mulch. 3. Strip, re-glue, sand and paint (with two coats plus a varnish finish coat), front porch furniture. 4. Spackle, sand and paint every wall on the first floor, plus upstairs hallway. 5. Remove, sand, paint and reinstall all household woodwork. 6. Power vacuum and steam clean all household surfaces, including all upholstered furniture, draperies, air vents and duct work. 7. Make sure fireplace is in good working order. (You never know; it could get cold in June.) 8. Strip, stain and refinish all wood flooring. 9. Replace carpet in entire house. 10. Sanitize all bedrooms and bathrooms. 11. Replace all household light fixtures and switches. And so on.

My family’s response to my wish list goes something like this. 1. Run mower over weeds two days before the party. 2. Pick up stuff from the floor so that no one falls over it and sues us.

Party time is only a few weeks away and we’re at a stalemate.

Arbitration, anyone?

Have your own “Party” nightmares?  Share by clicking “comments” (in red, below) and tell us about it!