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You may recall, dear readers, that Gill was so happy to come home for the holidays that she demanded little in the way of creature comforts. Realizing that my house is now full, with Crazy D, L’il Sis , Mr. Pants (Crazy D’s puppy) and The Pig (L’il Sis’ beagle), she allowed that all she needed was, and I quote, “a bed and a door.” Be careful what you ask for. Merry Christmas, Gill, you got them both. Sort of. The product (in this case, your room) does, as you say, what it advertises on the label. I promised no more, no less and so I fear you are disappointed…dare I say gobsmacked at what now passes for life in my house.

The house looks much the same on the outside. As in, it is still standing. Beyond that, I promise nothing. I am now living in the equivalent of a frat or sorority house. It is when you enter the garage that things begin to take a turn. Instead of being home simply to Gill’s couch, a bookcase filled with her auxiliary coffee supply, a case of Perrier and multiple bags of birdseed, there is now a collection of different kinds of dog kibble, a ‘stand’ of racing bicycles, two clothing dummies and, as of two days ago, a wooden step stool. I suspect but cannot prove that Crazy D spirited it into position in the middle of the night. It either provides quick canine access to my car(aka ‘The Kennel’) or works as a chair for anyone feeling need of a quiet respite from the inner chaos that is my home.

Upon entering the laundry/mudroom, one takes one’s life in one’s hands. The floor is strewn with athletic bags full of equipment, bike riding gear, boots, sandals, running shoes, snowshoes, dog coats, leashes, a supply of poop bags (for the dogs — we humans have not yet been reduced to this solution for bathroom lineups), and several piles of dirty (?) laundry. The coat racks bend beneath the weight of multiple versions of outerwear — necessary to prepare us for any and all weather events up to and including rain, sleet, freezing rain, snow, spring, flash flood or avalanche. We do not live near any mountains. But should one miraculously appear, like that newly formed island caused by an eruption in the Pacific, we’re ready.

The kitchen still has white counters…or so they tell me. ‘They’ being Crazy D and L’il Sis. Should anyone need it, we have eight bottles of olive oil, ranging from extra virgin to extra extra extra virgin. I could make a very crude comment here, but that is beneath me. Did I mention that I hate olive oil? That seems not to matter. My small scorned bottle of canola oil (target of derision that it is)  is hidden in the depths of the cupboards, spurned by my hippie dippy foodie children. One of the upper cupboards, reorganized by L’il Sis, contains jar after jar of lentils, beans, flours I have never heard of, nutritional yeast, organic this and fair trade that. I am allowed one jar of brown rice and one jar of popcorn. I have come to ponder how it is that I’ve survived all these decades without my kids’ obscure, healthy diet. By their reckoning, I should have croaked years ago. But fortunately for my children, I’m still here, healthy, and in possession of a home I’m willing to share. Note that I said ‘possess’, not ‘in control of’.

It was fortunate that Gill arrived after dark from the airport and was thus not able to see the minefield that is now her room. (L’il Sis had previously taken it over but agreed to shift rooms for the duration of Gill’s visit.) Knowing how Gill expects routine, I had found and placed on her bed her grey fuzzy robe, her pj bottoms and her blackout window curtain. These items would get her through the first two days. We could go on a search and rescue mission for the rest of her belongings when we were both feeling rested and stronger.

With the dawn of the new day, she had a thorough look at her surroundings.

“Ma, I left specific instructions that my room was to be left as it was! How could you allow this to happen? Where is my shit?”

“Well, technically all you demanded was a bed and a door. I think you’ll find I followed those instructions to the letter of the law.”

“But there are two chests of drawers here now, with all of the drawers hanging open. The closet door won’t close because there’s too much stuff in the way and my important papers are nowhere to be seen! Explain yourself. I didn’t pack any underwear since I left a supply here. Now it appears I’ll be going commando for the duration of my trip.”

“Oh, stop being so dramatic. If you go into my room, you’ll find a stack of three plastic bins right behind the door. Open the door slowly so they don’t fall on your head. In the bottom bin, you’ll find your underwear…I think. Or is it in that pile of bins behind the piano in L’il Sis’ ‘sewing room’? Nope. I have it…I moved your underwear bin to the family room as a stand for the huge Christmas cactus. Oh, damn…how about you go to the mall and get some new underpants? It’s on me.”

“Ma, don’t think I won’t remember this callous treatment. You can’t just buy your way out of this neglectful behaviour.”

With that, she grabbed my credit card and the car keys.