Ravi, our youngest, recently moved out of town into an apartment that he’s sharing with friends. Before he left we let him know how much we’d miss him. “I want you to remember that your room will always be here for you whenever you need it,” I told him as he took his last box out to his car and drove away. Then his mother and I immediately started making plans on what to do with the newly cleared out space.
First of all we were amazed at how big the room seemed with all his stuff gone from the shelves, dresser, closet, and every available floor surface. In fact it was the first time we’d seen the carpet in his room in years. “I’d forgotten that is was blue,” Sue said. “We should paint the walls to match.
“Maybe we should fix it up as an extra guestroom,” I said, peeling the last Metallica poster off the wall.
“Or I could use it as my sewing room,” Sue said as she threw a few remaining pieces of moldy pizza and crumpled chip bags that she’d dug out from under the bed into the trash.
“It might make a really nice place to do meditation and yoga,” I offered, as I looked through the desk drawers and was pleased to discover several of my Beatles CDs that had been missing for months.
In the next couple of weeks we cleaned the carpet, repainted the black walls a nice shade of lilac, and put up new white curtains to replace the Harry Potter themed window shades that had been there since Ravi was ten. When the remake was finished we called to let him know and even texted a picture of his transformed room. We had worried that he might not like seeing his room this drastically different so soon after he’d moved but he seemed surprisingly happy with how the job had turned out.
A few days later around supper time our doorbell rang. Outside was a young man in his twenties with a roller suitcase. “Can I help you?” I asked.
“Yes, I’m Brad, I’m here to stay in your Airbnb.”
“I think you must have the wrong address,” I said. “This isn’t an Airbnb.”
He looked at his phone, and then showed it to me. “Isn’t this your address? Aren’t you Ravi?”
“Oh my gosh,” I said. “That’s my son. Why don’t you come in while I straighten this out.”
“Oh thanks, I’m really beat. I just drove in from Denver today. Could I bother you for something to drink? You don’t have any cold beer, do you?”
I called Ravi on the phone. “Ravi, there’s someone who just showed up looking for an Airbnb. What’s going on?”
“Right, I’m sorry, I thought I’d texted you to expect him. I’m renting out my room online. That picture you sent made it look so great I’ve already got people booked for 15 days this month. This first guy Brad got a very high guest rating. I’m sure he won’t be any trouble at all, just make sure you leave a key under the mat if you go out.”
“Ravi, your Mom and I were going to use your room.”
“That’s no problem, Dad. Just tell me the days you want it and I’ll block those out of the availability schedule.”
“But who’s going to take care of changing the sheets or making sure there are clean towels?”
“Don’t worry, my friend Darla is going to come in and do that after the guests leave. If you like she could clean up your room, too. Just let her know what you want her to do and write her a check when she’s done. She charges $30 an hour.”
“You want me to pay her?”
“If you don’t mind, Dad, I’m a little short this month. I just bought a new guitar. Oh, and make sure you have fresh ground coffee in the house. Not the kind that you buy, but that Kona blend that I always got at the gourmet coffee roaster. I promised that in my description.” At this point Brad interrupts me.
“Is that Ravi you’re talking to on the phone? Could you ask him about the pancakes he mentioned? I was wondering if I could get those made gluten-free?”
Ravi says, “Oh Dad, I almost forgot, I promised Brad when I talked to him that Mom would make him some of her potato latkes for breakfast. She said she’d make me some the day I left but I didn’t have time, so just tell her this batch is really for me. I promise that you won’t have to cook anything like that for the other guests. Just show them where you keep the bread and jam and yogurt. Oh, and make sure that there’s plenty of your home-made granola available. I know guests are going to love that.”
“Ravi, when I said the room would always be yours I meant … ”
“Oh, Dad, I know you meant it, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am. Do you know I’ll probably make more renting out the old room than I’m paying for my new space. And listen, it turns out your house is in a really popular location. So if you ever want to rent out your bedroom I’ll be happy to do it for you and split the money.”
“Rent our room? But where would we sleep?”
“Check up in the attic. I think I left my old camping tent there and you’re welcome to use it any time you need it. There’s a nice spot in the backyard under the oak tree you could try. You know how much Mom loves camping.”
Brad interrupts again. “Sorry to bother you but could you show me where the bathroom is. I think I ate a bad burrito for lunch. It’s kind of urgent.”
“Ravi, I’ll have to call you later.”
“OK, Dad. Listen, I’m sure this will all work out for the best. Remember how much you said you’d miss me? Well, now there’ll be lots of other people around to keep you company and take my place.”