My house has changed a lot since we moved in 21 years ago. It was a brand new home then, with white walls and neutral carpeting. Over the years, we’ve added our own personal touches and done some remodeling, but the biggest changes came when our children reached their teen years. Somehow, our suburban home has morphed into a free, extended-stay hotel.
My main job at our self-made hotel is concierge.
I am the finder of lost things, the righter of wrongs, the in-house doctor and the computer guru. I manage the main calendar, shuffling appointments and events around the schedules of five people. As frustrating as that sounds, the most difficult part of the concierge’s job is keeping track of where everyone left their phone charger.
Most days, I feel like a weekday bartender waiting for something to happen. I stand at the kitchen counter alone, wiping things that are already clean, checking the clock and hoping one of our permanent hotel guests will come in and bring me news of a world different than my own. Eventually, my son walks in and he’s pleased to see that I have his favorite drink and snack waiting for him after his long day. I’m so happy to talk to someone after hours of silence, but soon he is off to join other members of his party.
Housekeeping at our extended-stay hotel requires a strong stomach and bad sense of smell.
Rooms are littered with unwashed sports uniforms, fast food cups, and cereal bowls with leftover milk. The beds are a twisted mess of blankets and unworn clothes, now covered in cat hair. Garbage is piled around the empty trash cans and dozens of water bottles decorate the nightstands. Somehow, after I spend hours returning rooms to a livable state, they morph back to squalor by morning.
My husband is also on staff at our hotel.
He is the maintenance manager, exterminator, and head valet. His time is spent unclogging drains filled with long hair, steam cleaning makeup out of carpet, and repairing mysterious holes in the drywall, which come with the most interesting stories. He is also on call 24/7 to remove any bugs that cross our daughters’ paths.
As head valet, my husband consults my master calendar to find the best configuration of cars to avoid blocking anyone in or leaving too many cars on the street. On winter mornings, he is the first one out there warming up cars and scraping windows for our permanent guests. Of course, like the kitchen help, no one thinks to tip the valet either.
We have given up on tracking our guests’ invoices. Each of their enormous bills include unlimited cell phone data, car insurance, and a college education. We know these bills will never be paid in cash. Our payment will come in the form of knowing smiles and nods when we watch them working at their own free hotel one day.