For example, over the many years I've been roving the planet I've been a house guest often enough to assume that by now I had the roll down pat and that I'd have all the requisite bases covered by respecting the following House Guest Rules:
Go with the flow.
Arrive with a gift.
But the lesson I learned on my latest stint as the house guest of my daughter and her husband had to do with the gift you arrive with. And I learned it from a fellow house guest who happened to be visiting Maria during the same period as Tom, Tommy, and I: Maria's college friend Jen.
Now, picture the scenario: Here are Maria and Justin who work like crazy 24/7, 365 days a year running JRealty, their real estate management company, while raising a a toddler and a nursing 10-month-old, both of whom are down with colds at the moment.
Into their comfy but not-huge house swoop three relatives and a college friend for the week, which happens to be the last week of the month, always the busiest week at JRealty, the week when bills, payrolls and finances need to be reconciled.
And it's not as if all four house guests were a unit: as we all know, there's one dynamic that goes on with one's family, another with friends. Trying to deal with two social units, neither being being well-acquainted with the other and spanning two generations, could have well been over-the-top- stressful for Maria and Justin and uncomfortable for us all.
Except that it wasn't. Quite the contrary. We all got along like my husband Tom's favorite metaphore - peaches and cream - and had the best time together.
And to this auspicious outcome I mainly credit what Maria's friend Jen brought with her. And what she left behind.
What exactly did Jen, a high school academic counselor from Chicago, bring with her? A positive, sunny, over-the-top good-natured attitude.
What did she leave behind? Any potential microbe of negativity.
So complimentary and appreciative was Jen of every aspect of the hospitality being offered her that you'd think Maria and Justin's toy-strewn, laundry-laden, after-hours-business-office/home were a Beverly Hills manse; you'd think the serve-yourself-from-the-kitchen-counter meals were the finest, most elegant Four Seasons fare; you'd think the fold-out bed in the living room were the best accomodations at the Chateau Marmont.
And she practically out-did me in her doting on 2-year-old Makaila and 10-month old Sienna, even at that wired, tired, witching hour right before bed time when little ones and parents have about used up their daily ration of coping skills.
And Jen was funny. If laughter is the glue that bonds people, we were all well bonded.
Now I do believe that Jen, certainly a sweet, friendly, people-pleaser by nature, probably has as great a capacity for dissatisfaction as anyone. In fact, being a high school girls' field hockey coach and former captain of the Wooster Women's Field Hockey team, I'll bet Jen's got an inner pit-bull that she knows how to unleash when necessary. But as a house guest she obviously knows how to keep all that hard-edged stuff packed away and pull out only whatever makes her hosts feel good, whatever the level of hospitality being offered.
Which got me to reflecting - have I always behaved the same while a guest in someone's home?
Probably not, but, inspired by perfect house guest Jen, there's a new addition to my list of House Guest Rules:
Arrive with the gift of overflowing positivity.