Houseguests worth a few challenges

By Karl Terry, PNT Managing Editor

I briefly turned my back on the pan of gravy to start another pot of coffee and it erupted like a white volcano from the stove.

Seconds later the smoke alarm was going off and both dogs were nervous and one was barking his head off.

A manageable problem in a normal day; unfortunately, it occurred with overnight houseguests sitting at the dining table waiting on breakfast with a front row seat to witness my mishap.

My wife displayed great concern at the time but later admitted she was laughing inside because she’s normally the one setting off the smoke alarm.

Ben Franklin said houseguests and fish start to smell after three days. In my house they could start smelling like burnt gravy the first morning.
Regardless, we had a great, though quick visit with a couple we knew from Colorado. The breakfast turned out great, despite the boiled over gravy. The friends didn’t seem to mind that the trundle bed didn’t work either.

I always obsess over getting the house somewhat cleaned up before guests arrive. My wife, also known by the name Oscar Madison, doesn’t really care and can dirty it back up before they get there if I don’t watch her.

We’ve had our share of misadventures over the years while hosting people in our home, to be sure.

My mother-in-law’s first visit to see us in Colorado stands out. She came out for Thanksgiving, and arrived on the bus in a snowstorm for a week’s stay.

It snowed hard and by morning things had pretty much shut down. By the next morning it had turned cold, 20-below cold, and the water to the house had frozen. I spent all day in four layers of clothes laying in the snow attempting to thaw out the pressure pump with no luck.

That afternoon I took a harrowing drive into the hardware store where I purchased water containers and a drop light to put next to the pump to thaw it. After a couple of days we finally had water again, but not until the houseguest and the rest of us started to smell.

Another good houseguest story was the time my parents came to visit. Dad decided to go downstairs to bed early while the rest of us stayed upstairs to talk.

The dog followed Dad downstairs to the bedroom and bath and we never thought anything about it until we heard my father holler at the dog. The dog came up the stairs really fast and as he hit the landing he smiled at me — with my dad’s teeth. The little rascal had swiped the dentures off the nightstand and made off with them.

We hosted an exchange student from Thailand for several days once. My wife worried because the petite school teacher was hardly eating anything she put on the table.

Finally, the last night she was there, I suggested we all go out for ice cream. Her eyes lit up and soon she was devouring a sundae.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “We dare not trust our wit for making our house pleasant to our friend, so we buy ice cream.”

Well said, Ralph.

I’m starting to learn the problems that pop up with houseguests are never the end of the world or even a friendship. They’re going to happen; you just get through them. The most important thing is to maximize your time with friends and family.

Even if they stay the regulation three days, that’s a short visit with someone you like.

Karl Terry is managing editor at the Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at 356-4481, ext. 33 or e-mail: