(First published in 2006 in NorthernIslander).
There are probably a few homes with doorbells on Beaver Island. I don’t know of any personally and I doubt if they get much use. At many places, you don’t even enter through the front door. Some houses have “mud rooms” where you can stomp your feet – thus alerting the family within that they have company. At other homes, one knows to gain entrance through the less formal ambiance of the garage. Knocking is polite but not mandatory.
I should have known better when we built our own island home. My husband insisted on “rotating” the blueprints, so the actual front of the house faces the woods instead of the dusty road. It doesn’t confuse anyone but me. Islanders quickly learned to enter via the garage, through the downstairs den and up the steps to our livingroom.
Our three dogs don’t pay much attention anymore to the sound of the den door opening and voices yelling, “Hello! Are ya decent?” Occasionally they recognize the folks and will run pell-mell to greet visitors at the bottom of the steps. Other times, they just go on napping. You never know.
Just this Christmas we were surprised to learn we’d had some late night guests – snowmobilers who were out enjoying a moonlit cruise. One of the ladies needed a rest room and stopped in to use our facilities. At least four of us were upstairs lounging in front of the fire, but we never heard the troop below us, nor did the worthless guard dogs.
I asked one of the safari folks if they’d found the bathroom downstairs. “No,” they informed me, laughing. “We just used your garage drain!”
I was happy to learn they’d made themselves at home. I recall I was clad in some nasty old p.j.’s that night – not the kind of outfit you want to be seen in whilst entertaining.
Because of our “backward” house, I’ve gotten caught more than a few times in less than formal wear. Writing at home allows me to work in my little office wearing anything I darn well please. One muggy August day, I took advantage of that benefit and typed away until well into the afternoon, dressed in a scanty little outfit resembling a Las Vegas showgirl costume. But hey, it was lightweight and helped during that hot and humid weather. By the time I could react to impending visitors, an old friend was standing in my kitchen (along with four of her pals I’d never met before). There was no time to change or even dive into a robe. To their credit, not a one even raised an eyebrow at my attire and I dispensed drinks and snacks with a great deal of poise, I think.
Recently, another group took full advantage of gaining entrance to the house without us seeing them. It was our turn to make dinner for our “Diner’s Club,” a group of four couples who take turns cooking gourmet meals for one another during the bleak winter months. Hubby and I had been slicing and dicing all day and just had time to throw on clean jeans and sweaters before our guests would arrive for appetizers.
I should have known something was up when the dogs heard voices below and went to investigate. The poor beasts came back cowering and whining – they’d spotted
something seldom seen in our house: dinner guests who were dressed to the nines.
Two of the ladies had formals on. I’m surprised they weren’t sporting wrist corsages, probably just an oversight. One cousin had her hair as bouffant as a prom queen. The men were in three piece suits and ties, one portraying Alister Cook – complete with a pipe and brass-topped cane. I have a picture of them, but they swore retaliation if I published it…and with this group you’re never sure what they might do.
I’ve resigned myself to a lifetime of not knowing who I might meet in my own house. There’s no point really in installing a doorbell or a knocker or a gong. Folks are just having too much fun coming in the back way. I do have one request, through. I’d sure appreciate visitors shouting out, “Hello! Are ya decent?” Just don’t be surprised if I yell back “No!”