The Fine Art of Visiting

During a recent trip to my 98 year old Grandmother’s home, it occurred to me that something is lacking from our culture now a days. Nobody under the age of 65 bothers to visit anymore.

Sure teenagers “hangout” but it’s not the same as visiting. Hanging out usually consists of going over to someone’s house to do an activity like playing hoops, or go shopping. Few words are exchanged, & deep conversation is never entered into. The video gaming in the worst, One child gets on a computer & the other one brings a lap top & they sit in the same room & play over the Internet. I bet none of todays youth know who the last person to die in their friends family was, or what current medical problems their friends might be having. IF teenagers do talk at all it’s usually through text messages & rarely more than a sentence at a time. I sat in a room with my twin 13 year old nieces the other day & watched as they texted each other back & forth from 6 feet away. Finally I had enough. “Why don’t you put down your phones & just talk?” They looked up at me confused, bewildered as if I’d lost my mind, or was asking them to commit a murder.

Visiting is indeed a fine art. In East Texas, you can even say it is a ritual with its’ own set of unspoken rules & pleasantries. First of all you never go visiting without taking something. It could be a pound cake, a casserole, or new pictures of the family, as long as you are not empty handed. Secondly visiting is not something to be rushed it is considered down right rude to visit less than 30 minutes. A good visitor comes in, takes their shoes off, & makes them self comfortable on a soft couch or well padded chair. You don’t want to sit in a wooden chair while your visiting, your butt will get sore after a while causing you to fidget & squeem which signals your host that you’re not really listening or could care less that her sister’s kid got a hair cut & went into the army. Visitors are supposed to be truly interested in what their host has to say, as well as have their own long-winded anecdotes to share of their own to share. I have never had a visit to a relative in Texas without uncovering one juicy tid bit about their family or perhaps mine that I didn’t know before.

On a recent visit to my Grandmother’s I discovered that she miscarried at 40 & they put the baby in a jar that her parents kept on   a shelf in the closet until they died. I found that fascinating but not surprising. My Grandmother had actually given birth to my Dad & gone back to work in the field the same day. Or so the anecdote goes. An anecdote is a common story that is told regularly while visiting. You might hear the same story from several different people about other people doing the same things, but its the same exact story.(Keith can you make that make sense?-KD) Kind of like a the fishing stories you hear, they just don’t all have fish in it. Anecdotes are sometimes true & sometimes false, but one never goes visiting without at least one of these little ditties to tell. You know a visit is drawing to an end when the visitor makes a remark about letting you get back to your life, like “I’ll let you go so you can: cook dinner, watch your show, or take a bath.” The take a bath statement is never a good sign to the visitee-it means they stink. Visiting although always polite, is also a good time to bring up your concerns about each other. My Grandmother always uses our visits to remind me I’m fat, & that I   need to get remarried so that I don’t die alone.

Once the visit is done, the host walks their guest to the door & either hugs or kisses them goodbye. A hand shake is considered way to formal, after all you just shared a deep family secret with someone, doesn’t that deserve some sort of deep affectionate gesture? Visiting is definitely becoming a lost art. Another one of the many traditions we are not passing on to our youth.

Kemala Thompson is a former Texan who now lives in Puyullap WA.    A published writer in the 80s she  gave up writing humor to become a corporate executive in medical sales.   As a single mother of an 11 year old Brandt, she has come full circle and left a 95% travel job to write and stay home with her son. Look for her in the future in such publications as:    More Magazine and Texas monthly.

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