Y ou don’t know me, and I don’t know you. But I know what you look like, from the pictures on your fridge. I know that you paint, from the paintings adorning your walls. I know where you live — I’ve stayed there. Three times, in fact.

I can tell we’re very different — I’m gefilte-fish-and-cholent Ashkenaz, you’re obviously Sephardi. My apartment isn’t always gleaming, whereas I’ve never not been able to see my reflection in your floors.

The only thing we actually do share is a rebbetzin. Our rebbetzin lives around the corner from you and far from me, so whenever you go away for Shabbos she invites us to stay in your apartment and spend Shabbos with her.

The first time we came, you were just out of your sheva brachos week. We could tell by the printout on the fridge of a sweet-looking girl and her chassan standing by a bunch of lavish flowers and looking shyly at each other. Obviously, the chasunah photos hadn’t come in yet.

Other clues included a large shiny bow tied with a flourish round the kettle, and a silver “FIVE-YEAR GUARANTEE” sticker stuck on the microwave. An empty fridge only proved the point — you obviously hadn’t needed to cook yet. The beds looked like they’d been lifted from one of the mattress stores I often pass with a wistful glance. Coming from our one-room studio apartment in Yerushalayim, I walked around as though in fairyland — everything gleamed!

“The beds,” my husband said, something akin to amazement in his voice as he carefully sat on the edge of one, “the beds don’t creak!”

“They don’t?” I asked, impressed. The apartment was so beautiful I was terrified to let my baby out of her stroller, afraid she’d leave smudge-prints on something.

The second time we came, the bow was still on the kettle, but it drooped a bit. The floors still smelled of intensive sponja, but the laundry hamper was full. And the quilts, while still stiffer than ours, no longer crackled freshly when unfolded along the squares. This time there was half a tomato, half a cucumber, and half a butternut squash in the fridge, I noted as I stored my baby’s milk. The picture on the fridge had been joined by a professional photo of a beaming chassan and blushing kallah.

Looking at my face reflected in the floors, I wondered what my husband must be thinking about my housekeeping abilities compared to yours.

I was nervous about coming a third time and having to helicopter-parent my baby so everything in your place stayed as you left it. However, on our latest visit, I was in for a surprise. There, on the bathroom floor, lay a pair of pajamas. The kettle was ominously bow-less and the microwave no longer doubled as a mirror. From the latest haphazardly placed photo on the fridge, it became clear that you’re expecting.

Aha, I thought uncharitably. See, real life catches up with everyone! I looked again at the three photographs on your fridge: the starstruck engaged couple next to the blissful young marrieds, which was half-covered by a new picture of the two of you — there you are, looking vaguely tired in a baggy top.…

I could say, “Welcome to real life, honey!” as I notice the remnants of cornflakes in your previously spotless sink. But that would be missing the point, the point being that shiny floors and springy beds are only a backdrop to what’s really important: you, your husband, and your unborn baby. If you have the energy to wax each floor tile, great. If you don’t — the floors aren’t going anywhere.

I look forward to seeing the next set of pictures on your fridge,

Your Guest (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 555)