I found Mom making her usual morning rounds behind the housekeeper, inspecting the rooms thoroughly to ensure their fitness for guests.
“Morning Mom.” I said.
“Good morning dear. Dvora Brannon’s son is arriving from Ireland tomorrow,” she said, rifling through the sheets in the linen closet. “Why don’t you help me prepare his room?”
Dvora was a longtime friend of Mom’s who was a sort of health guru in town. I recalled her an elegant and exceptionally strapping woman, seeing her about town in leotards and tights, convincing crowds of the benefits of wheatgrass and meditation. But I didn’t remember her having any children.
“She has a son?” I wondered out loud.
“Yes, he’s been accepted to an internship at the university. He’ll stay with the art students on the first floor for the semester. I’m still deciding what room to put him in.” She contemplated visibly. “I think 102 facing the courtyard will be best.
I was curious of her new concern for the comfort of someone none of us had ever met. She certainly hadn’t expressed this amount of regard for the art students.
“Does it matter? I mean, which room he’s given?”
“Well darling, I want him to feel welcome, coming such a distance and all. He’s never been to the U.S. We’ll make him feel right at home. Much as we can.” She struggled to hoist a bulky set of bed linens and towels under one arm.
“Here, let me help.” I gathered half the tower of white folded cotton and terrycloth, following close behind as she started down the hall.
I mentally reviewed the basement floor plan. With two art students, and now Dvora’s son, there would be three new residents.
Mom opened up room 102 which faced the courtyard. It was sparse in its furnishings of a twin bed, an antique dressing table and nightstand. The exception was a familiar beige Victorian fainting couch, which had in the last 24 hours been moved from the library.
“Mom? What’s the fainting couch doing here?”
“Oh you know,” she lay the pile of linens gently on the bed, pressing out the creases with her hand “want to make him feel right at home. With all the newness of the United States, some Old World charm will serve him well during his stay.”
I scoffed at this completely unnecessary sentiment. “We’re in California Mom, not Victorian England. I’m sure he’s familiar with life here.”
“Oh I’m sure you’re right dear.” she reassured me. “But what’s the harm in a little romantic remnant of home?” She busied herself about the room, hanging towels, stocking clean sheets in the closet and wiping the dresser with her index finger checking for dust.
I plopped down on the fainting couch, stretched my legs out long and placed a hand over my forehead dramatically.
“I do think I’m going to faint Mother!” I said in my best British accent.
“Silly girl. Now get your feet off there. “