Having a house full of company when you are not at home pushes every button a Southern True Lady has. I grew up in the South and was taught certain things about how to be a True Lady. If you are a True Lady you understand it is a value and it is not always possible to be one. While I was taught to be a True Lady the standards are high and mostly these days I am a just a woman.
On my mother-in-law’s kitchen wall is a plaque about being a woman that is the same as the one that hung in my grandmother’s kitchen. There was a period of time that I thought it sexist but as the years passed, and I got more life experience, it makes me smile because of the kernel truth it carries even in these enlightened times.
Four Things A Woman Should Know
How to look like a girl
How to act like a Lady
How to think like a man
How to work like a dog.
I focused on the Lady line since that is the ideal that was always held up to me as truly important. A True Lady is always gracious. A True Lady is always neat. A True Lady’s actions speak louder than her words, particularly since a True Lady is a woman few words. When a True Lady speaks she dispenses wisdom. A True Lady does not talk just to be talking. A True Lady is well read and well versed in the events of her world and the world around her, both in geography and in time. A True Lady can converse with a guest on any topic showing knowledge and even when she is, not showing herself to be more knowledgeable than the person with whom she is speaking. She always wants to make the other person feel their contributions to the conversation are special and important.
Above all, a True Lady keeps a fine home.
This weekend my mother-in-law, Mom as she is known to me, got really sick and they took her to the hospital. We flew down to Houston as fast as we could, worried about her health. When we were flying down my spouse and I discussed where we could sleep. Her house was getting full. Her youngest son lives there and her grandson already there. We were arriving and her middle son might be on his way. There were not enough beds in house. We considered going to a hotel but thought we might be in trouble with the family for doing such an outlandish thing.
At the same time, from the hospital, while sick and undergoing all sorts of medical tests, Mom directed as to who was to sleep where and which sheets should be changed and which towels put out.
It is very strange to have a house full of company when you are not at home. Certainly on Saturday night when the paramedics came not one of us was thinking about accommodations and whether or not the house or the towels were clean. Once the worry about Mom and the arrival of family members was set into motion who sleeps where it became an issue. We are staying at the house in the only room with beds that was left. We are staying in Mom’s room.
It is very strange to have a house full of company when you are not at home especially if they are sleeping in your bedroom.
I can understand how it feels. Our house burned in a wildfire and then we had a house full of company with no home to come to. After the fire people came to be with us. My sister arrived two days after the fire and stayed with us through those first awful days. We were living in a hotel at that point and I was very concerned that her room be comfortable. My training as a Southern True Lady kicked in and even only two days after the fire I was fussing over whether or not she had enough hangers in her closet and if the pillows were right. I worried about whether the room was too small or the bed too big. I worried about what we would feed her.
A few weeks later we had moved into the Green Shag House which was our temporary housing for a year. My spouse’s brother and significant other came to visit. The house was completely furnished but I was incredibly worried about the bed linens, towels and what we would feed them. I was worried that I would not graciously welcome our guests.
After that we had a string of family and friends who came to visit and to grieve with us and encourage us. As I look back I cannot imagine what we would have done without so much care and concern but I also remember worrying for each visit about the sheets and the towels and if we had food they liked and if the house looked its best. We owned sheets and towels and some cooking gear but the balance of the house was not ours. How would it matter if it looked its best?
A True Lady is always resourceful. A True Lady makes everything around her glow from the light of her presence. Everything around a True Lady receives her touch and is the better for it.
I had a hard time figuring out how to make the Green Shag carpet and the Orange Counter Tile with the Black and Red Shag Carpeted Conversation Pit look its best. Finally, in the style of a True a True Lady, I made it looks its best by playing up its best characteristics. In this case, the fact that the venerable old dame of a house was 30 years old and all original equipment in good working condition. We lived in a museum of 1970s architecture and furnishings. The Green Shag House was not old and out of date, she was a marvel of authenticity.
I had a hard time convincing myself that my attempts to be a True Lady an make the Green Shag House as good as it could be really worked. In fact, most of the time I just have a hard time living up to the True Lady credo. My mother taught me well but I just cannot pull it off.
One of the most important tools a True Lady has is her home. A True Lady’s home is always clean and prepared to accept last minute guests with grace. Fresh towels and sheets are always sitting in the cupboard awaiting the very moment that an unexpected guest arrives. There should be fresh flowers in the room allocated to the guests and abundant food that fits the tastes of the guests. Not having a home makes it difficult to have the room ready when the things you need to ready the room burned up.
We have the things now we just don’t have the house yet. If guests did come we would clean the little apartment in our basement where we live now like mad, move our guests into the only bedroom with a bed into the house and hike upstairs to sleep in sleeping bags. Thankfully no one has wanted to come see us in the past few months since my ability to be a True Lady would be severely compromised.
So for now Mom has to be a True Lady from her hospital bed and I have to be a True Lady without a bedroom. The most important thing about a True Lady is that she always maintains her grace regardless of the circumstances. She always makes others feel at ease. We are sleeping in Mom’s bedroom. For us, being in her bedroom makes us feel welcomed. Mom is a True Lady and following her example I hope I can live up to the ideals of being a True Lady.