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There are lots of ways to host a child’s suitor. I’m trying to figure out which of them suits me.

Usually, the Mason-Dixon Line serves as more than an historical marker for me. I think of it as a contemporary cultural divide: they like Sweet Tea, we like it straight; they favor rocking chairs, we sit on Adirondacks; they eat grits, we grit our teeth.

But every now and then, I recognize the Deep South gets a few things right. Take hospitality. No. Let me be more specific. Consider a gentleman caller.

That’s what’s about to happen at our house. In a few days time, we’ll be playing host to our college-aged daughter’s out-of-town beau. This visit has thrown me into a tizzy.

First of all, there’s the easy stuff, like maniacally getting the house ready so that he sees us in our natural habitat of photo-ready decorating merged with surgical standards of cleanliness and order. That’s a given.

The other first, which was really the first first, is the sleeping arrangements. I’m a thoroughly modern mother, which means that Winchester (not his real name but one I’m rather fond of using when referring to the young suitor) will not be literally locked in the turret room. But he will be quartered in the guest room in the attic, which means two things in our one-hundred and twenty-five year old house. Simply put, he may perish from the heat, and, should he elect to descend from his garret down to the floors reached by the air conditioning, or any other source of comfort, he must use the loudly creaking staircase.  Did I mention that I’m a light sleeper?

But who really cares about all of these sleeping arrangements when what is really important is setting the right tone for welcoming a young suitor to the family?

My brother, who married a girl from the Deep South, tells the story of how welcoming his father-in-law to be was when they first met. Steven describes walking up to the house and seeing George sitting on the porch with a shotgun across his lap. “Son,” George said, “I’d like to know your intentions with my daughter.”

George wasn’t one for idle chitchat.

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