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Oddchester: Don't look in the bedroom

Whenever we have visitors coming in from out of town — especially those who will be staying with us — it makes us suddenly look at our house in a different way.

A way that makes wife, Lindy, call an emergency family meeting and start saying things like:

"Henry, you need to shovel all of your Legos from the living room floor into a garbage bag and throw it into our bedroom!"

"Hadley, take the clothes from the air hockey table and throw them into our bedroom!"

"Emma, gather up the tax receipts from the kitchen table and throw those into our bedroom!"


"And, Steve — this is the most important job — MAKE SURE NO ONE LOOKS INTO OUR BEDROOM!"

It's very much like when I realize, at 8 p.m., that I have a dental appointment first thing the next morning, and I spend the next four hours Waterpiking my gums until they bleed. Then I try to sleep with my mouth filled with Listerine Total Care.

Also, when the dental assistant asks how many times I flossed in the last two weeks, I can honestly tell her 11, not mentioning that 10 of those were in the car as I drove to my appointment.

Our house — and I'll just come right out and say it — is not what anyone would consider a "show house," especially after a long winter during which our kids have been climbing the walls. For two of our kids, that applies literally.

We have a narrow upstairs hallway leading to our bathroom and two bedrooms, and, on a regular basis, Henry, 12, or Emma, 7, will put one foot on each wall and shimmy to the ceiling and hover above door openings.

If you have never walked out of your bathroom and unexpectedly been leapt on, from above, by a screaming 7-year-old girl, then I cannot convey this terror to you.

You'd think, after a few years of this, that I would become desensitized. You would be wrong. No matter how many times it happens to you, you're never fully prepared for a child falling onto you from the ceiling.

So, for starters, our hallway walls are stained with small hand- and footprints.


Our kitchen windowsill is decorated with a rotating series of strange food items that Lindy and the kids collect.

Currently, the windowsill contains a pair of interlocked Froot Loops, a giant puffed-up piece of Cinnamon Toast Crunch that looks like a Cinnamon Toast Crunch balloon, a Flamin' Hot Cheeto that looks like Conan O'Brien.

A windowsill full of misfit food is the closest thing we have to an etagere. It is not the type of thing one sees on "Million Dollar Decorators" or "Divine Design."

Our textured ceiling in the living room sports a series of random untextured circles. Scout, our chocolate lab, loves chasing racquetballs, and we sometimes get carried away and bounce them too high off the floor.

The carpeting in the living room is matted down where the kids sleep on the floor on Friday nights. There is a dog-shaped impression of hair matted in the carpet where Scout sleeps next to them.

The linoleum on our kitchen floor is stained from the time Henry and I tried to make the ultimate stink bomb (though in our defense, the house did smell unbearable for three days).

As for room layout, we do not have a guest bedroom, so overnight visitors have to sleep on our pullout couch, an experience that can best be described as "My back! Oh, God my back!" Luckily for our guests, the pullout couch also features a handful of bad springs, the poking of which helps take your mind off the metal bars grinding into your spine.

My brother and his wife are, as I type this, on their way from Michigan for a visit. And while we have moved those Legos from the living room floor and the clothes from the air hockey table and the tax files from the kitchen table, we know that, deep down, Dave and Tammi, like most of our guests, won't really care much either way.


With four now-grown kids of their own, we know Dave and Tammi will look at those footprints on the hallway wall the way others might admire a faux finish.

They will appreciate the windowsill collection of odd food items the way others might gaze upon a lighted cabinet of pewter figurines and Hummel plates.

They will, should they sleep on the pullout couch, probably lie and tell us it's "fine."

They will not, though, under any circumstances, be allowed to look inside our bedroom.

This column appears in the March issue of Rochester Magazine, which is on newsstands now.

Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.

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