When I was younger, I used to clean the house when I knew people were coming over. I don’t do that any more. At my age, you lose the desire to impress visitors and work more on welcoming them. Family and friends forget the way our house looks five minutes after they leave, but they always remember how we treat them. After a few decades we learn to accept the fact that people actually live at our house and we can’t keep it looking like a museum unless we want to scare off the locals.
Take the other day for example. I knew several women were coming to my home any minute. Before they arrived I walked into the living room and noticed smears on our shiny black piano, lip smudges on the French doors and nose prints on the china hutch. Twenty years ago I would have whipped out the cleaners and whipped those greasy smeary messes away quick as a wink. But I’m older now and I’ve learned that lip smears and nose prints are evidence that children like to be in this home. Besides that, every smudge and smear reminded me of one of my grandchildren. When you become a grandma, you earn the right to leave smudges where they lie. What used to annoy you now makes you feel all fuzzy inside.
When I looked at the china hutch, I remembered watching my grandson Mitch taking his first hesitant steps and doing a nose plant on that pane of glass. Wiping off the evidence of his victory seemed kind of disrespectful. When I saw the smears on the shiny black piano, I remembered the impromptu family concert on Sunday night when my daughters stood around the piano singing a song about Jesus. I was washing a mountain of dishes in the kitchen and when I heard them harmonizing, I cried. You see while they were growing up I tried to encourage them to get along with each other, practice the piano and sing - without a lot of luck. Now they do it without being forced, bribed or scolded. Now they do it because they love singing, playing the piano and each other.
The finger prints on the French doors have been there for about two months now. They reminded me of Sophia and Samuel who live far away and can’t come to visit often. Sophie and Sammy smash their lips and noses on those panes of glass when they visit because it makes their cousins Emily and Sandy giggle. Sometimes they kiss each other as they each stand on opposite sides of the glass. When I see the lip and nose print ghosts they’ve left behind, I can’t bring myself to wipe them off because I don’t know when I’ll see them again. I like looking at something tangible they’ve left behind.
While I was looking around the living room I also noticed a tiny white sock the newest baby to the family left behind. I had it proudly displayed on the fireplace mantle. Emma Joy’s mother Teresa lets me hold her every time she comes to my house. She seems to sense that grandmothers and granddaughters need smuggle time, warm new skin next to warm old skin. Holding newborn grandbabies smelling like pink lotion and baby shampoo is God’s sweetest reward for surviving sleepless nights with their parents.
I think our homes should be a haven where real people feel safe and loved. They aren’t supposed to look like a trendy hotel lobby to impress visitors or meant to be as sterile as a hospital. In fact, now that I have a few grey hairs, I think nose prints and lip smears just might be the finest works of art I ever display in my home.