After the Fact: Keeping up with the Joneses

In the very middle of winter when there’s 20” of snow covering my sidewalk and driveway, dust accumulates. There is NO time in the San Luis Valley when you can NOT dust the assorted collections on table tops, counters, in bookcases or other horizontal surfaces. After many years of flitting a well-washed diaper (yes, I am of the generation whose children wore cloth diapers) over everything even remotely touched by a dust flake, I am now oblivious to any amount of the stuff. If I should run out of sticky notes, I could always leave a reminder on the coffee table, writing in the dust with my finger. That would also save looking high and low for a pencil or pen.

Except. Now I find my daughter is a compulsive house cleaner. She wages a daily, one-woman war against the dust that has been, heretofore, resting in stress-free comfort.  I’m pretty sure Chris inherited this particular affliction from my grandmother. Grandma (“Gracie” to her friends) did spring cleaning every day. Rain, snow, sun or typhoon, grandma would dust, wash, rinse or sweep everything in sight. Her canary would start sneezing the minute he saw the feather duster come out of the “broom closet.” That may have been a reaction to seeing his relatives tied up in such a cavalier manner, but I still think it was anticipation of the clouds of dust flying around the room, seeking sanctuary in some new nook or cranny.

We have an abundance of plates, saucers, cups, dessert plates, bowls and all else common to fine dining at home. If we had someplace in which to hide them after use, we could easily go a couple of weeks without washing. As it is, our dishwasher is defunct (has been for so long that I can’t remember when it wasn’t) so dishes and utensils are HAND-WASHED. Imagine that. Another step backward down the evolutionary ladder. The small sink will overflow with just a couple of meals’ worth of dishes. That’s less a problem than you’d imagine since only Patience (9 years’ old) objects to washing and only Patience cannot reach the shelves to put things away when they’ve dried.

One evening, Patience had washed only a few dishes when she told Chris she was “allergic” to that dish soap and had to quit before finishing the job. Chris, ever thinking, brought out at least five other bottles, each containing a different brand (or, at least, a different color) of soap. All other options thwarted, the dishes were washed before bedtime. If our congressmen and senators were half as creative as a 9 year-old, we could look forward to peace and prosperity in a matter of weeks, or maybe even days.

Some friends and relatives have exquisitely decorated homes, clean and orderly any time you might drop in for a cup of coffee; others have homes littered with projects, collections and displays showing, possibly, a little dust and maybe a dish or two resting in the kitchen somewhere. Still others have homes that have run amok with past, present and future projects, spouse’s and kids’ collections, and dishes queuing up for their turn in the dishwasher sometime in the next century.

Have you noticed that the “state of the house” has very little to do with the pleasure you get from visiting a friend? 

By the time my mom felt “affluent” enough to afford a part-time housekeeper, I was staying with her but working only when called to substitute in the schools.

Day-to-day cleaning and cooking would have been a lot easier if I hadn’t had to clean before the “cleaning lady” arrived. Ros-a-mary would show up sometime before noon but after she figured the breakfast dishes had been washed and put away. She and mom would laugh and share stories in the living room while I made up beds, did laundry, mowed the lawn and milked the cows. Not really, but it sure seemed like I did all the work while Ros-a-mary drank coffee. She did mop a floor or two, dusted a window sill and would leave after four hours of mostly not working very hard. With a check that amounted to more than a day’s pay for a substitute teacher. She was a millennial before most of the millennials were born.