When the days get shorter in late June, you know that summer is almost upon us. Temperatures in the high 60s are finally about to reach the coast of Maine.

In the summer, even those of us in modest oceanfront cottages have our share of guests, and an experienced husband doesn’t need to be told that friends or relatives who are tired of the Pennsylvania heat are about to move in like mosquitoes at a Monhegan picnic.

In some homes, days in advance, even the atmosphere changes, and the dog slinks about with his tail between his legs with the innate knowledge that Cousin Vern from Hartford will soon replace him on the couch for a three-day weekend.

At the humble farm, however, visitors are always a cause for celebration. I enjoy men in particular because it means extra strong hands to help shingle a barn or brace up a shed. I prepare for their visit by making a list of things I want them to help me do.

On the other side of the bed, my wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, sees visitors as a challenge to raise the bar of domestic science.

Yesterday, I walked into the bathroom of our bed-and-breakfast’s Executive Suite and found her on the floor, washing out the storage space and pipes in the little cabinet underneath the sink.

This morning, she was in the dining room, waxing the undersides of the rungs of an upside-down chair.

It was obvious that Marsha’s Aunt Iola was coming to visit: Aunt Iola makes even Marsha, who is a spit-and-polish managerial genius, look like Gravel Gertie.

Only time constraints will keep my wife from spending a day in the cellar putting a fresh coat of wax on the furnace.

She is now in an organizational frenzy, knowing that it won’t take Aunt Iola’s experienced eye all that long to see that I married a slipshod, slovenly woman who lounges around in bed until 5 a.m. and does laundry only once a day.

If you’ve ever readied a ship for the captain’s inspection, you can identify with the frenetic atmosphere in our home. Although I can’t see Aunt Iola in white gloves, feeling under the toilet bowls and behind the pipes in the overhead, you’d think my wife was a seaman apprentice expecting to be keelhauled or buried at sea.

A matter of great concern was the shower curtain in the upstairs bathtub. In 1811, houses were not built with an eye to having a shower on the second floor, and any bathroom installed in 1970 in such a house is usually in a small closet with a sloped ceiling.

Last year, my helpmate wanted to suspend a shower curtain at an impossible angle from that slanted ceiling over the antique tub with clawed feet.

Seeing that it would look much like a hay dispenser for cows, I put up a wooden bracket and little wooden grommets. I poked pipe through the holes in the grommets, and Marsha hung her shower curtain from the pipe with the obligatory little plastic rings.

All was good and well until Kenny and Susan spent a day here. Kenny said that the shower curtain should be of clear plastic because one gets a claustrophobic feeling in a small tub when the plastic is white. (In all the movies you’ve ever seen of women taking a shower, you can just barely make them out through the steam and clear plastic, and you wonder why they need to have any curtain at all.)

So Marsha got some clear plastic and strung that up. Then she decided to paint the brown grommets that support the pipe, after first asking me if I could make them “smaller” so they wouldn’t be so bulky and “ugly.”

While painting the grommets, a great epiphany: The clear plastic curtain could easily be suspended from cup hooks. The pipe and grommets were unnecessary and would have to go.

So I took down all the wood and pipe, which had taken me the best part of a day to saw out and fit together, and she rushed to town to buy white cup hooks. White – to match the color of the toilet paper.

The cup hooks were prohibitively expensive, and it was decided that the curtain will hang from screws.

There is now talk of wrapping the furnace in the cellar with some kind of curtain. There is no time to polish it.

But enough is enough, I say. Should we be terrorized by an elderly woman with the eyes of an eagle and a heart of gold?

My wife is a reasonable woman, which means that she’ll listen to anyone except her husband. Will you please tell her that she should consider keeping her aunt confined to the great out of doors and the first two floors? I am more than willing to nail shut the cellar door.

Don’t come to my office if you want to see me this week. I am more likely to have been scrubbed down and hung out on the clothesline to dry.

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website:


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