We had guests last week. The first ones this year. We get about 4 sets of visitors per year and we look forward to these visits especially if it happens to be a relative or a close friend like M. I had last met her 8 years back when she had just got engaged to AK. They were impossibly young, certainly too young, in my opinion to contemplate marriage. Back then, I too was a different person, energetic, ever enthusiastic, single, happy go lucky extrovert. Not this married, mature adult that I am now! (Little did I know how much I had changed).
It was in february that M had sent me an email about their forthcoming trip to paris in April and could they stay with us. AK had to attend a conference on Anesthelogy. One would imagine that two months would be sufficient to prepare one for guests and yet I found myself with a messy apartment and only 24 hours before my guests arrived. Before each visit, I go into a frenzy cleaning, wiping every possible surface. I wonder why I bother. The guests get about 2-3 minutes to take into the sparkling cleanliness before baggage and other paraphernalia takes over! However, it does give me a good excuse to de-clutter.
For two months, I have been counselling them on the finer points of visiting Paris, the seasoned Parisian that I am. And yet within minutes of their landing, they found that I had been wrong about quiet a few things. The last few days we were having marvellous sunshine and M had come prepared for mild spring weather. Instead they froze (especially their four year old T who had to be swathed in M’s clothes) while firstly we went round in circles on the wrong airport shuttle trying to locate our bus stop and then waiting for nearly an hour in the cold bus stop only to find out that the last bus had left at 9pm. We had to settle for a taxi who luckily did not kick up a fuss about 4 passengers plus 1 kid and even joked that A should sit behind with us and T should sit in front for a better fit. Within one hour, they not only froze but also were 63E lighter, thanks to me. And yes, we couldn’t pay our share (we did later), because a day earlier the ATM had swallowed A's card and I rang to have it blocked and managed to block my card as well.
Thank god, this happened after our Saturday marché otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to stock up on food and our guests (and us) would have to go hungry. Between the 2 of us, we had 15E enough to see us through till Monday when the banks reopened but we felt so uneasy, so vulnerable! For not for long. I suddenly did a "mother-saving-money-from-grocery-in-sugar pot-trick" and hey presto, found 90E in one of my several handbags! Phew!
I took them around on the first day so that they got used to the Metro and public transport system. And while I was at it, I took them to Notre dame, the Left bank, the boquinistes, eiffel tower etc. They loved everything and filmed and shot everything in sight. After having waxed eloquent about the beauty of Paris, I am afraid, I put up a very bad show. I was terribly impatient with them, shooing them like a crusty old nanny...not letting them linger in any one place for too long! (When you have been to each of these places at least 10 times, the novelty wears off). But I must say they took it in good humour. The next day onwards, they were on their own, leaving early each morning when I would anxiously ply them with do's and don’ts and returning late at night when they'd fill me on the nice people they met and who helped them out and had long conversations with. Ah bon? They even managed to hitch a ride from the station to our home...something we have never done, in fact never tried, sure to be turned down. OK that sort of hesitant “I-am-alien-out-here” behaviour is strictly mine to A's eternal disgust.
Earlier M had asked us about our social life/circle. Ooh we have loads of things to do...but it is limited to the two of us. What’s more, we two are extremely settled, content with our life and our routines and don’t miss having the wide friend circle we did previously! We explained how the language was a barrier etc. Didn’t seem to be a problem with M and AK. M of course consoled me by saying its easier to strike up a conversation when one has a baby in tow! OK, then that explains it. Once we have children, the whole world and his brother will be knocking at our doors!
The only thing I was correct about was one I didn’t feel any sort of pleasure in being correct about. I had asked M to not bring T along but to leave him behind with his grandparents. It would be too tiring, and totally uninteresting for him. True. Each morning, he would sadly ask M 'are we going to see more paintings?'! Poor thing. He would somehow drag himself in each night, but even then taking of his shoes and socks and clothes and putting them away neatly, while M would try to shove spoonful of food into his mouth.
The seven days simply whizzed by. And its only now that they flat is empty, I think about how nice it was having them here. How both of them grown up into mature adults, with two lovely kids. AK, no longer the shy medical student but a full-fledged doctor in the Indian Army. And me? As M and AK discovered (and indeed so did I with surprise and dismay) I was no longer the energetic, ever enthusiastic, single, happy go lucky extrovert I was back then. I had been replaced with this insular, hyper, nagging, person with a cleanliness mania!