Life does not stay the same in this old purple house. Just when I think I have settled back into a routine of work and play and some kind of structure, the phone rings and here we go again.
New Year’s Eve was no exception. While do-si-do-ing at Pokagon State Park I was texting between the Virginia Reel and Dive for the Oyster. It was not the normal texting; it was to a young man from India. Prabal had just arrived from India with his fiancee, Bharti, and needed a place to stay for one night. Before I had time to respond, they needed three nights, then a week, then forever?
I was a bit baffled about the situation but through further texting (“Everyone, take time for a waltz!” I announced) I found out they both were entering the graduate program at Trine University, and “Yes,” I say, “I live close. You can walk.” I guess my “yes, you can walk” statement clearly was an affirmation of housing.
As I was pulling into the driveway on New Year’s Day, they were arriving in a Trine vehicle. We made quick introductions on that snowy day and hauled their suitcases upstairs. I felt a bit like Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy as they finally collapsed and began their 24-hour sleep. I held a dinner that night with Lee and all his daughters and our friend, Art. We ate, we laughed, and we played music, but not a peep from the upstairs room. “How can they possibly sleep through all this noise?” We lit the Christmas tree for the last time, sang Happy Birthday to Kenzie and still no sound of life.
I did not see them until the next day. It was as if they were emerging from a cocoon or the sleep of Rip Van Winkle. I imagine their first thoughts were “Where are we, and what are we doing here?” I know I would have had those thoughts had I just awakened from the sleep of the dead and found myself in India.
There was no food for them … sorry I made a ham, I thought. The first order of business was a trip to Meijer. My friend, Loren, was visiting so he was called upon to do the first trip while I emptied the dressers and the closets of their room. They arrived home with 20 pounds of flour and interesting other choices. Hmmm … small kitchen … bags of groceries? I again scrambled making room on the shelves in the fridge and other locations to place their necessities for the one day, three days, a week, or forever.
Prabal and Bharti have been with me for more than two weeks. Would it be fair to say we have had many conversations on how to live in the United States? It is, of course, their first time. It seems as if every day we sit down at the table to discuss possibilities, customs, thoughts, what is expected and where not to put their cigarette butts!
I guess it would also be fair to say they have become my children as opposed to my guests. They have met the family, my friends, and they are getting used to my lifestyle.
“More people are coming to stay here?”
They realize I work a lot, need time to myself when I arrive home, and have a tendency to take them with me wherever I go.
I often talk about Mengting and Virginia, telling them how the living arrangements were with them. They laugh about my rules and I tell them Mengting received four pages of rules! That makes them feel better. But through this change we have become family. We cook for each other, share our problems and joys, and take care of this old house together. I love to sit and hear their stories that are so different from mine. They love to tell them and listen to mine.
I don’t know how long they will be here, but I hope you get to meet them. Yes, you will have trouble pronouncing their names, I still do. But they will invite you into my house, offer you tea, and talk as if you are their aunts and uncles. I know they get homesick although, after they met Matthew and Jonah, they felt all was right with the world.
Welcome to our lives, Prabal and Bharti, all that I have I share … including my friends and family. (Don’t forget to clean your room!)
LOU ANN HOMAN-SAYLOR lives in Angola at the White Picket Gardens where you can find her gardening or writing late into the night under the light of her frayed scarlet lamp. She is a storyteller, teacher, writer, actress and a collector of front porch stories. She can be contacted at email@example.com.