Thursday, July 08, 2004

If You Build It, They Will Come

In Florida, there is a simple mathematical occasion: Northerner(transplanted) + House-In-Florida = Houseguests x Infinity.

I learned the truth of this equation almost from the time that we decided to buy a house in Celebration. Apparently, just thinking about buying a place in a temperate zone sends out psychic vibrations to Northern relatives who share even the tiniest drop of your bloodline. If that place is going to be within 50 miles of Disney World, multiply the potential house guest factor by 5. Make it practically on Disney World property and the multiplier shoots to at least 50.

The size of our home is very modest by Celebration standards (I think it's around 1500 square feet), but when we furnished it, we still made sure that it was very visitor-friendly.

Upstairs, we have two bedrooms, each with a full bath (one has a tub/shower and the other has a large shower stall). Guests can take over one of those, at least on a limited basis (the spare bedroom doubles as my husand's home office so sometimes he has to roust people so he can work). We outfitted it with a futon for easy guest-crashing.

On the main floor, there is a formal room at the front of the house and a family room at the back, with a powder room somewhere in the middle. We live in the end unit of a triplex, and one of the reasons we purchased the unit that we did instead of the one on the other side of the building was the fact that our unit would have French doors in the formal room. Our neighbor in the mirror unit loves the airy feel of her doorless room, but the closed off version is more practical for visitors. We bought a futon and hung curtains on the French door windows so guests can take it over and have a modicum of privacy. They have to come upstairs to shower, but the powder room is nearby for other "personal" needs.

In the back of our house, the family room is totally open to the kitchen and dinette, but those who are not too fussy can crash on the comfy couch and loveseat. It's not very private, but beggars can't be choosers. We were originally going to buy a sleeper, but we couldn't find any that we liked. Even though the sofa and loveseat don't convert into a bed, they are still pretty darned comfortable.

We also laid in a good supply of spare pillows, blankets, sheets, and towels. I never realized what a challenge I would face finding blankets in Florida in the springtime! I searched every aisle of the Wal-Mart, and when I asked, they thought I was nuts. Considering how cold most people keep the air conditioning, I would think that blankets are a necessity all year long.

Just when I think that we have enough linens to outfit an army, the closet is suddenly bare. I am firmly convinced that guests towels disappear to that same never-never-land where missing socks reside.

Almost as soon as we closed on our house, the parade of visitors started. First, it was some friends who were coming down for a cheerleading comptition. They had been planning to stay at a hotel, but we offered to let them crash at our house. Next up was a carload of nephews and nieces who decided to go on a road trip. Amazingly, in over a week they never made it to Disney World. They love to surf, so they used our house as a crash pad and headed to Cocoa Beach every morning.

Two sets of guests in less than a year is actually very mild compared to some of our neighbors. They all closed on their homes around the same time that we did, and some have spent less time without guests than with.

Actually, I don't mind playing hostess. My only paranoia lies in the delicate nature of much of my decor. Since I have no children, unless you count the furry feline kind, my house is filled with breakable knick knacks. Of course, that brings on a panic attack whenever inquisitive little people with slippery hands are around.

In reality, we haven't had any small fry visitors yet, but my grand-nephews keeps calling to ask when we're going to bring him down for a visit. I keep putting off the inevitable, but I know that I'll have to cave in eventually. I'm still trying to determine whether threats of torture and deaths will be sufficient or whether handcuffing him at all times that he's indoors would be preferable (and legal).

So far, all of our visitors have been pretty much self sufficient, with their own agendas and transportation. But from my neighbors, I have learned that there is a second species of migratory visitors: those who expect you to be host AND tour guide. Because you live in Mickey's back yard, you must be a Disney expert, right? And of course, it logically follows that you must love schlepping around the parks all day, power touring with your guests.

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, I have become a lazy and laid back theme park visitor. Now that I live in Celebration, my power parking days are over. A visit to Disney World usually means grabbing a Fast Pass, dining at a restaurant where I have a priority seating, and then catching my Fast Pass ride on the way out. The only time my husband and I spend any substantial amount of time in the parks is during the off season, which seems to get shorter every year, or when a major storm has chased away all the tourists.

But I was a power parker once upon a time, so I understand the mentality. When you don't have the luxury of visiting Disney World whenever you want, you have to make the most of every second of your limited time. I can definitely sympathize with my visitors.

The problem arises when they want you to join them, and of course they expect you to keep up the same blistering pace. I have seen my neighbors pile into a car at the first rays of dawn with their enthusiastic house guests. Round about midnight they return, dragging their pitiful, exhausted bodies into the house, a glazed, defeated look in their eyes. They don't have the energy to speak, but their thoughts are plain: "Please, put me out of my misery so I don't have to do this all over again in eight hours!"

We also have some neighbors who seem to be house guests in their own home. They own an enormous house across from us; our entire triplex building could probably fit into that one home. We moved in, and for months we never saw a light or a person coming or going. No car ever graced the virgin driveway, and the window shades never changed position. There was never a sign of life, other than a lawn service that kept the yard under control.

Finally, at Christmastime, the house came to life. On Christmas Eve I saw a group of people frantically stringing lights in the yard. Could they be our elusive neighbors? Turns out they were just friends, but the neighbors showed up shortly thereafter. For that whole week we saw children playing on scooters outside and groups of people piling into a van for apparent theme park sojurns.

Then, when the holiday season was over, they left as abruptly as they'd come. One day the house was bursting with life, and then next day it was deserted. It's been over six months now, and it sits empty and forlorn, probably waiting for next December when it will be filled with life again.

Somebody else in the neighborhood told me that the owners are from some faraway state, and they only come to Celebration once a year. A house that seems almost like a mansion to me in a one-week crash pad to them. Must be nice! The funny thing is, when they came to town, they actually drove past their own home because they didn't recognize it. They didn't know that their friends had put lights out, so when they passed it, they thought it couldn't be theirs.

In all fairness, I suppose that the recent growth of East Village could have compounded the confusion. They probably were expecting to see a dark house surrounded by flat, open fields. Instead, they found a decorated home with a park and cul de sac of brand new houses in front of it.

It must be nice to have a palatial vacation home like that. Then you never have to depend on the hospitality of friends and family members who might be short on towels or paranoid about their knick knacks. But me and my "posse" can only dream about such luxuries, and meanwhile I'm sure that I'll never be lonely even though I'm a long way from my original home state. My house may be modest, but you'll find plenty of bathrooms and futons, and you sure can't beat the location.

Learn more about Celebration on my website:

No comments: