As I sat sharing a dinner with a new friend last night, one of my Air BnB guests, it occurred to me how far I had come on this journey when I opened up my home to visitors after losing my husband last year.
Over the past few months I have welcomed quite a few visitors. For some Santa Monica is the first stop, for some it is the last stop, and for some it is the only stop. I’ve had visitors from France, Italy, Sweden, Ecuador, as well as other parts of the United States. I’ve discovered August is the hot month for visitors from Australia!
When I first began this endeavor three months ago, I had no idea if I would enjoy it. The first couple of visits were indeed bumpy as I had to adjust to footsteps in the house (my house!), clunkings in the bathroom, and the door opening and closing at all hours. There was the discomfort of having to figure out how to live in my own house with strangers in it. Simple things such as cooking or watching television, or having friends over, felt awkward as I navigated boundaries between public and private space.
Then, as with so many things, I learned to adapt and even welcome these strangers into my home.
‘Welcome.’ That is indeed a beautiful word. I looked it up and found that it meant, “Whose arrival is a cause of joy. Received in gladness.”
Last night me and my new friend shared openly about loss and family and aging and how do we come back together as a country. Over the past months I’ve chatted with lady jockeys in the morning sunshine, had a glass of wine with a psychologist from Sweden, shared a meal with two sisters on their own journey of healing.
In the beginning, the gift of hosting the BnB was the requirement that I participate in the world to a greater degree. Opening my home up meant that I would be encouraged to meet and mingle with people after months of being a recluse.
It also required that I keep the house clean, do the dishes, vacuum the dust before it got too thick. It required I put a smile on my face, a cheer in my voice as I opened the door to welcome them in.
What had not been required was that we might share a meal, a story, a laugh, a loss. What had not been required was that we would hug goodbye, promise to stay in touch, offer open invitations to come visit and stay awhile.
I’ve known for a long time that this house, this home of mine, has a wonderful healing energy. She glows when she is filled with guests. The cool porch welcomes the weary traveler, the sunlit bedroom is a peaceful oasis after the tiring expeditions. I hear it in their sighs of contentment when they first arrive, “Oh, how lovely. Thank you for letting us stay.”
“The pleasure is mine.” I honestly respond.
There is something deeply satisfying in laying out the clean sheets, placing the towels just so, cutting the sprigs of lavender to greet them. It brings out the mother in me to shop for fresh fruit, discover new books to add to the growing collection, make their coffee in the morning. It pleases me tremendously to hear they’ve slept well, enjoyed their stay, miss this place already.
In a world that seems filled with violence and hate and cruelty, it is a blessing to be reminded that there is also much kindness and generosity and love. In the end we are all people. As I sit speaking with folks from different countries, different cultures, it is a fierce reminder that even as there are differences between us there are also so many similarities. A mother is a mother in any country. A loss is a heartbreak in any land. A friend is a gift everywhere.
It is an honor to provide this sanctuary, this oasis, this place to let down the walls for a little bit.
“Welcome,” I say to them as I open the door, letting them step inside. “Welcome to my home.”