Amid this COVID-19 crisis, learning to enjoy the sanctity and the privacy of our own homes all day, every day has become a necessity and sometimes a struggle. But for some, like me, it’s second nature.
I’ve always enjoyed staying at home. I always preferred the quiet, slow pace of my daily routine to the fast pace hustle and bustle of the outside. It was never a problem for me to trade in my gorgeous, sexy party dress for my oversized, overused, comfy pajamas. Or to cancel plans with my friends if I changed my mind about going out.
I have always treated my home as a sanctuary. My safe shore from the raging seas outside. And as my sanctuary, I’ve never liked having people over. I’m not big on receiving and hosting people. On catering and tending to guests. On people invading my private, personal space. I would much rather meet friends outside than to have them over at my place.
Some people might call me anti-social or a snob even, but I am a direct product of my upbringing.
Growing up, my house was always filled with people. Opened and ready to receive family and friends and strangers even. And not only the fleeting, evening guests, but long-term residents taking up space in my home, my life, my sanctuary.
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My parents were always picking up strays and welcoming them into our home. People from church who needed a temporary place to stay, newly arrived immigrants and their entire families, friends over to spend the holidays. Any relative who had a falling out with the rest of the family. Our house was always opened to whoever was in need.
I would voice my disapproval to my parents with persuasive arguments about the place being too small. About the dangers of having people we barely knew over. But my mom always came back with the same reply.
“Your grandma lived in a house made of dirt and brick and had far less than we do, and, still, she would always welcome people in need into her home,” she would say.
My mom, too, is a product of her upbringing. But unlike my mother, this apple fell very far from the tree.
I’ll never forget the morning I woke up bright and early to watch cartoons. I opened the door to my bedroom and walked to our living room to find it filled with unknown relatives my mom had brought over from our country. I knew family was coming over, but the fact they would be this many and would crash in our small apartment was never revealed to us kids.
I was shocked, then anger and resentment toward my parents crept their way in. I walked back to my bedroom and climbed back into my bed and waited. I waited for them to wake up so I could dare make noise in my own house.
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My parents never consulted their children on whether we agreed with this open house policy. They simply expected us to behave, be polite, and share. Share our time, our space, our toys.
At first, being a kid, it was somewhat easy to bury my resentment under my youthful, carefree attitude. But as the years went by, their openness and generosity had an opposite effect on me.
Instead of becoming warmer and more welcoming towards these guests, I became distant and cold.
I avoided them whenever possible and studied at school and delayed the time I would come home.
This place I once called home was no longer that. It became some sort of inn with revolving doors where people would check in and check out. My house was no longer a haven. It was just the place where I lived.
To this day, my parents still receive people at their place. They always host for family and friends and strangers, and they still don’t understand why I didn’t turn out more like them.
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I don’t invite people over. I don’t host the occasional dinner party or have family or friends over for coffee and a good chat. I don’t share my home with people who don’t live there or are not part of my inner circle. I’ve done enough of that through my childhood and my teenage years. I also, if I can help it, don’t often accept invitations to other people’s houses.
My home is, once again, my sanctuary. My safe shore away from the raging seas. My haven from the outside world and my refuge from people.
Perhaps, my children will also be a product of their upbringing. Maybe they, too, will fall far from the tree and will enjoy having people over. Will open their homes to family and friends.
And I’m OK with that.