By Mary Lowengard
EVERY 12 MONTHS, trout season rolls around, coincidental with house-guest season.
You know what they say. Both fish and guests tend toward the fetid after a few days. However, as my pal Buzz points out, only the former can be smoked.
I love hosting (almost as much as trout almondine) and am proud to say that approximately 99 44/100% of my friends have the Emily Post basics down pat: the thoughtful gift, offering to help with the dishes, keeping their rooms tidy, the effusive thank-you note.
As for the other 56/100th percent, I am a very forgiving person most of the time.
After a few warm-up experiences my first year at Bucknoll, I decided to pen a comprehensive memorandum for prospective visitors just to make everything, as Richard Nixon liked to say, perfectly clear.
The Bucknoll Weekend Guest Agreement and Contract
Welcome to the Three Seasons, which is the official name of my cottage. FYI: These seasons are Winter, Summer and Mud.
I am so, so happy you have accepted my invitation to spend the weekend at my modest midcentury mansard-roofed refuge. Kindly review the tips below to ensure we are still on talking terms as I bid you adieu.
Let’s start with the definition of “weekend.” This is universally understood as two days (i.e., Saturday, Sunday) or three (i.e., Friday, Saturday, Sunday). In this part of the world, the weekend ends on Sunday at 2pm sharp. After that, overtime charges will be added to your visit.
Safety Essentials: Please Watch Your Step
This is a safety-first household. Heads up: There are no handrails on the stairs leading up from the driveway, or for that matter down to the fish-less pond. Handrails would be out of character with the charm of the cottage.
You may notice the railings on the deck are actually gates that can be raised and lowered by ropes attached to cleats on the posts, a feature dreamed up by previous owners to afford an uninterrupted view of the mountains. Perhaps they should have anticipated guests taking it upon themselves to lower the railing during cocktail hour. Don’t. It is a sheer drop of 15 feet off the deck.
Arrival Protocols: Parking, Security and Perambulation
The driveway accommodates four cars in the rear and another six cars down the length of the driveway, or double that if they are MINI Coopers. Please leave your keys in the glass bowl at the front door in the event someone parked behind you absolutely positively has to get out while you’re sleeping in or are out on the back nine. Nota bene: This is NOT a key party.
I do not lock the doors when in residence, but if you arrive before I do, the hidden key is where you will be told it will be. Only you and every workman in the township knows where this is, so please look around when you are putting it back to make sure even more people don’t see where it’s stashed.
As you enter, please note the gleaming wood floors throughout the cottage. Restoring them to this condition required your hostess to spend two full weekends hand scrubbing every inch with a toothbrush dipped in Simple Green and then paying in excess of three months’ salary for professional refinishing. It takes six years for the finish to cure, so please remove your soccer cleats and stilettos before you walk in the door.
I won’t be miffed if you prefer to just return in four and a half years.
Hanging Out: Wi-Fi, Smoking and Climate Control
If by chance your cell service is provided by AT&T, you are in luck! An influential member of the community is apparently also an influential executive at AT&T and arranged for a cell tower to be constructed on his property.
Otherwise, Wi-Fi is available more or less. If you desire an uninterrupted cell signal, this can be guaranteed only if you stand in the hallway to the left of the front door by the small window, face west, and bend slightly to the right. Don’t move!
Alternatively, feel free to take a drive to the other side of the mountain. Which mountain, you wonder? Any mountain. Just get to the other side.
Smoking (other than fish) is prohibited in the cottage, on the deck, on the property, across the street, or in fact anywhere in the township or county or for that matter this corner of Pennsylvania, including in the lavatories. Tampering with, disabling or destroying the lavatory smoke detectors is prohibited by law.
The temperature of the cottage has been preset for maximum comfort and will range between 51 degrees (in winter) and 92 (in summer). If you are chilly, you will find an ample stock of Cooper Union hoodies in your room, supplied by my history professor sister who scoops them up at the annual athletic-gear sale. Feel free to don or, for that matter, walk off with two or three.
If you are feeling overly warm, please remember you are in the mountains where it never gets hot, so perhaps you have a fever. We will be happy to direct you to the local doc-in-a box. By the time you get there you may be already feeling better. And you’ll be halfway home so you might as well keep going.
The All-Important Et Ceteras
Cutthroat Scrabble is the official house (i.e., cottage) game. We expect you to play or feign fatigue and retire immediately following dinner. We have our own Three Seasons rules. One is, any word that elicits groans from 100% of the other players earns a bonus 20 points.
The reason the living room sofa is encased in aluminum foil is to discourage the cat from clawing it to pieces, and not that your hostess is attempting to shield herself from electromagnetic signaling from outer space.
Speaking of pets, there is a cat and a significant supply of levocetirizine in the cottage in the event you are sensitive. The fact that there is a cat should settle any issue of bringing your dog. And if you bring a friend, please remind them that guests of guests should not bring dogs.
The greatest house gift of all you can offer is your gardening skills, as your hostess has none. Weeding, planting, replanting, fertilizing, mulching even cutting things are all well beyond her skillset.
Can’t wait to see you. Please sign and have this document notarized where indicated and be prepared for a pop quiz on arriving.
Any questions? Just contact my attorney.
Mary Lowengard really did own a country cottage once upon a time somewhere in Pennsylvania. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. She is grateful to KW, JM, JAR and Woody, who made these stories possible. To start at the beginning, click here.