Small price

It’s five days earlier (and four hundred euros more) than planned, but my sisters are back home. A combination of heavy rain and persistent danger of avalanches abruptly ended their season in Switzerland. The restaurant where they worked decided to close its doors a few days earlier than planned and because of that they were presented with a choice. To book new train- and plane tickets to enjoy the Spanish tapas, wine and sun five days earlier? Or to stay in rainy Zermatt? Not a brain teaser at all and because of that the decision was made quickly. Nice for them. A little less for me. Because while they are handling the last details of their return to Spain in Zermatt, I hurriedly am trying to finish my own living space.

With more paint in my hair than on the wall, I feel like I could have appeared in a classic episode of Ik Vertrek*. The living room shutters, which I have already treated with varnish, latex, primer, lacquer and exterior paint, finally look presentable again. As I step back and look at the result, I nod with satisfaction. It’s acceptable. The fact that I can no longer close the shutters is a minor setback, but not something that we cannot solve immediately. “How much paint did you put on it?” my father asks sternly when I ask him if I can borrow his sander. I shrug. “Not that much,” I answer firmly. Glad that I already put away all the different pots and brushes last night. While he starts sanding, I start walking – armed with the vacuum cleaner, a bucket of soapy water and a roll of garbage bags – to my sisters’ living areas.

The room of the youngest (where I have been staying for the past five months because mine was not yet finished) is not yet ready for her arrival. Due to a lack of moving boxes, I decide to simply stuff my clothes into garbage bags. One by one I put them out into the hallway. While I try to clean her room as quickly as possible, I hope my father doesn’t unexpectedly get the idea to throw away the “garbage”. Luckily he is still busy sanding. Perhaps one layer less (in retrospect) would have been sufficient. Nothing more I can do about it now, though. While he sands and I clean, my mother leaves for the airport to pick them up. When I receive a message two hours later that they will be home in five minutes, I still struggle with the endlessly long pillow cover that I have decided to put on my other sister’s bed. After five months I have no idea what exactly belongs to whom. So I don’t find it strange when one of them (just after returning home) lifts up a rack of shower supplies in surprise and looks at me questioningly. “What is this stowaway doing here?” I smile apologetically. “Isn’t that yours then?” She shakes her head and takes it to the other’s bathroom. I shrug. It was clearly a rush job. Luckily they are not paying guests. They are not really critical either. They are just happy to be home again. Five more days in Spain is a gift from heaven. And four hundred euros is a small price to pay for that happiness.

*In the Netherlands there is a very famous television show called “Ik Vertrek”, where they film people who are planning to move abroad. I guess it’s based on the English show called “No Going Back”. Most of them plan to run a Bed & Breakfast and very often this will not go easily. They’re not prepared and/or don’t speak the language at all.