A scouting colleague of Andrew's, whenever he has popped by, has found us playing host to the five thousand. He never comes to the house but we have 15 people, half of them kids, running around, we've usually just finished dinner and there is a table full of detritus and crumbs, a kitchen full of cups and dessert plates, and a multi-coloured throng of children racing in and out, slamming the screen door and laughing and shouting. There was even a couple of dueling fiddles last time he was here.
It's not usually this chaotic, I want to shout over the din. But it's not true. Not to him, anyway.
Another friend once said to me that our evenings must be so relaxed and peaceful. I think I'd mentioned how we all like to read, and in his mind's eye I am certain he saw us spending many long evenings curled up on the big comfy couches in the living room, the light subdued, the music playing, and the only sound that of a turning page, or a muffled chuckle.
Not quite. There are often people talking about their book, fighting over a book, discussing their book, reading from their book...and that's doesn't even cover the nights when reading time is five minutes squeezed in between karate and bedtime.
Last weekend, I was saying my house was cluttered (which, truly, it is) and that I'd like it to be organized and elegant. Another friend (obviously a good one) disagreed with me. She said she always thought of our home as cosy, warm, friendly, whereas elegant homes often seem distant, cool, as if nobody really lives there.
It seems all my acquaintances have their own ideas of what my life is like. I say I live on 50 acres in the country in an ancient farmhouse...and it conjurs up a picture that, depending on the person, seems idyllic or the very definition of insanity. I once mentioned the philosophical dinner parties we occassionally host and years later was told by a woman how she had been intimidated by what she assumed was our collective brilliance.
She knows me better now and is aware that any erudition is fleeting at best. But it's funny how others see us. Not always as we see ourselves, and perhaps not always the reality, but somewhere in the middle.