No, I didn't fall off the planet. But, once or twice, it was the fingernails that saved the day. We learned, on relatively short notice, that we were the lucky hosts of the family reunion. Note that I say "relatively short notice" that is short compared to how much needed doing to prepare for the arrival of the group. Since I got a little carried away with art shows last year and produced quite a bit of new work, that meant piles of frames collected and were stuck on the floors. I began to notice that the room once designated (only by me) as "the gallery" (any normal person would have recognized it as the formal dining room) had considerable less floor space than when we first first moved in. It had even crossed my mind that the room would soon shrink to the point of becoming a hallway to nowhere.
How could this happen, you ask? Well, for one thing, when we moved in, this house was only about four years old and the walls still had a lovely coat of mostly uninterrupted paint. This became a thing with The Husband. While I have mentioned more than once what a catch he is, he is human—yes, there is a flaw here and there. He had adopted this notion that he didn't want "a bunch of nails" in the wall. We had hung a few things that I talked him into, along with a few picture shelves, and I had used a bunch of easels as well as the fireplace mantel. Yet, we had a warehouse of frames leaning against walls and an expanse of lovely empty walls. Beautifully painted. Clean. Boring. Empty. Walls.
While we are on The Husband's eccentricities—you hear about mine all the time—the period leading up to house guests has become quite predictable in our home. I have played my part in this little ditty dozens of times in the 30+ years we have been married. If there is any notice at all, I begin making an effort to clean the place up as soon as I get the word that guests are coming. I immediately sense panic, because of course I am always in the middle of some all-encompassing project. On each occasion, I had managed to virtually overwhelm myself with ambitions and deadlines leaving no time for the routine of housework. And, equally inevitable was The Husband's response to my rising panic. "Don't be silly. No one cares what the house looks like. You make too much over it. Stop fretting and relax."
Many years ago, I would fall for that line. Such naivete. Soon however, I learned that it was a trap. A devious, seductive, but stinking trap. Every time I would be rocking along, focusing on my all important, new and wonderful adventure at whatever, oblivious to the impending storm. Then, suddenly one morning, the man I lived with would be replaced by this obsessed person who could talk about nothing except what needed to be picked up, put away, thrown away, washed, dusted, or just generally fixed. I know, you are probably saying why not let him clean and count my blessings. That is because you have never been through this whirlwind.
Soon, he's interrupting me with "What can I do with this junk of yours? Can I throw this out? Do you need this anymore? I'm taking all this junk to the dump, anything you want?" Needless to say, any possibility of concentrating on my project is impossible and I get sucked into the whirlwind. Well, I am on to him now. When he says, "Don't worry. No one cares, but you", I smile (mostly) and continue cleaning. I am on to his tricks.
This time, the place had gone completely to pot. The end of last year was about art shows and a new web site. January was about being sick. Housecleaning? No way. To top it all off. We had family leaving on a Tuesday morning and another house guest arriving that afternoon. It was going to be interesting. But, this time there was a surprise.
About two weeks before the guests were due here—right on schedule, he walked into my warehouse meant to someday be my gallery, scanned the piles of frames, and announced, "We need to hang this stuff on the walls." Fortunately, I was near a door jamb and didn't hit the floor. I hustled to my studio, nervously grabbed the ever-ready hangers and hammer (and I was never even a Girl Scout!), and said, "Where shall we start?" I was so startled, I couldn't believe it would last.
For days, we spent part of each day hanging prints. In between, I dusted, washed, put away, and cleaned alongside this transformed creature—always anxious about when the old and familiar man might reappear. Fortunately, there was no relapse and, over several days, more nails were tapped into place until the house was transformed. At the end, he stood back and said, "Wow, the place looks great."
I am still pinching myself and periodically have to browse through all the rooms marveling at all my work hanging. It seems that the gallery spread quite a lot beyond the walls of what was built to be a dining room. When the dust settled and the last guest left, last Wednesday, I was bleary-eyed with exhaustion, but smiling. And, I am still smiling.