Frequently I find myself caring for the house of another while they are off on adventures far away. Sometimes I merely visit their house to affirm that it has not been abandoned to the elements, assuring that the owner will come back to care for the house. Sometimes I masquerade as the resident, filling food bowls, washing dishes, sleeping in beds, all to keep the appearance for others that the party has not died, and there really is nothing to see in this boring house.
But no matter how much contact I have with the houses in my care, they all whisper secrets.
Houses, when their true owners are away, reveal the casual secrets everyone entrusts to their home. Whether it’s the bedroom curtains telling how dark the owners need the room in order to sleep, or the hidden corners revealing the frequency of hands-and-knee scrubbing, the house shares these secrets while the owners gallivant across the country.
Some secrets reveal more of the heart of the owners, and those are the secrets that astound me. We work so hard to keep secrets from each other, but our houses give our secrets away so easily when we let others in. To be entrusted with a secret intentionally is an honor; to obtain the secret inadvertently is disconcerting.
These secrets are not life-altering, you-killed-the-next-door-neighbor types of secrets; they are everyday, casual kind of secrets. They are secrets that you don’t realize you want kept secret until other people know about them. Most of the time, when other people are in your house, so are you, and your presence keeps the house from highlighting the secrets lying around. Letting another person into your house without your presence keeping the house silent opens the door for potentially unintended connections.
Watching someone else’s house, or entrusting your house to another, can reveal reality in a different light. And that can be a very helpful insight into your quirks and oddities. Much like David Sedaris’ “Nuit of the Living Dead”, the experience of trading house secrets allows you to see through another’s eyes in a way that is difficult to achieve through other methods. If you ever get the chance, take it and be open to the view from a different seat.