â€¦my floors, walls, and other areas. I apologize if the title inferred this would be a piece that contained juicy gossip. Frankly, I donâ€™t know that many ne’er-do-wellâ€™s, and certainly not anyone that is so naughty as to titillate the masses. (Why does the word titillate sound titillating? I always feel like it’s a word to be whispered and then followed by sideway glances and giggles.) Besides, where is your value system if it takes bad behavior to attract you to my writing? Tisk, tisk.
Now that I have cleared up any misunderstanding about todayâ€™s posting, what I really wanted to share is thisâ€¦itâ€™s not my fault that our house fails the white glove test. Honest!
I grew up with a mom who was apathetic at best about the appearance of her house. There were dirty dishes stacked Jenga-style near the sink at all hours of the day, floors so dirty they were essentially sticky, and five children who oozed chaos. Oddly, what Mom did care about was the barn. That building, with all its hay, manure, and animals, was kept clean and in order.
Grandma, who lived just up the road from us, was the polar opposite of Mom, and therein lays the probable truth. Mom was determined to do everything she could to be her own person, and that meant an in-your-face â€œIâ€™m not youâ€ lifestyle.
Grandma kept a spotless house. She had been trained early on that â€œgood girlsâ€ keep things clean both in their surroundings and in their person. Dirt was a sin. A dirty body was a sin. A dirty mind, well, a dirty mind was a stamped and sealed ticket to hell. Probably on the nonstop express route.
It bothered Grandma that my mom preferred outdoor chores to indoor chores. It bothered Grandma that my mom liked to wear jeans and ride horses instead of being a proper young woman. It bothered Grandma that all of this didnâ€™t bother my mom. And so, as in all classic battles for independence, lines were drawn and casualties taken. I was one of the casualties.
I grew up with three brothers (my sister came along years later). They were a, um, lively bunch, and I had to learn how to hold my own. The funny thing? Mom expected me to take on all the household tasks she disdained. I was a girl. Girls do housework, right? But Mom was a girl, and Mom didnâ€™t do housework. It was confusing, and it left scars.
When I didnâ€™t do a good enough job cleaning the house I was chastised, and yet nobody taught me how to clean. Apparently being born with a vagina includes a tutorial on how to keep a clean house. I swear mine was misplaced on the delivery table because I didnâ€™t get that pamphlet.
Grandma, when visiting, would even look between the chair spindles for dust. Sheâ€™d glance at me and shake her head disapprovingly. â€œYou need to do better,â€ was her remark, which stung far more than the barber strap Mom used on me. I was a kid! What kid looks for, or cares about, dust between the chair spindles?
On the days I did spend hours cleaning nobody said much of anything. Nary a â€œthank you,â€ or â€œit looks nice.â€ Within minutes the place reverted to disarray anyway, and my work seemed pointless.
It’s 2014. I should be older and wiser. I should contemplate the past and shrug it off. Today, after all, is mine to create. And yet. And yet. My demons are alive and well. I donâ€™t want to live in a house that resembles Momâ€™s level of disarray. I donâ€™t want to live in a home that is nearly antiseptically clean either. Nonetheless, I Swiffer between the dining room chair rails every now and then to please Grandma. I know sheâ€™s in heaven keeping tabs on me. I feel her in every dust mote circling the windows and in every dance with the vacuum cleaner.
The other day I was sweeping up a pile of dirt the cats had decided was unnecessary to the life of one of my houseplants. Damp black soil was everywhere. One of the catsâ€”I think it was Giese judging from the paw print sizeâ€”stretched as high up on the wall as possible and left a muddy abstract mural. Shortly after that I walked into the sunroom where our husky was sleeping. Tufts of hair wandered the floor like tumbleweeds. Broom and dustpan in hand like a fading gunslinger, I sighed and wondered why I bothered.
Then I remembered how it felt to grow up in a house that was always messy. I also remembered feeling painfully judged, as a child, because the house was always messy. It’s complex, and it remains ongoing. Iâ€™m not my grandmother, and Iâ€™m not my mom, and yet I know Iâ€™m both of them.