Sh*t I Say: “Why Is This Here?”
Today is the twenty-third day of the April A to Z Challenge. During this month I will be writing blog posts every day (with breaks on Sundays) about the topic “Sh*t I Say” starting with each consecutive letter of the alphabet. This is one crazy project, y’all.
Why is this here?
This is the post about picking up after yourself. It follows that the post is also about housework and the way it is conducted in the House of Prince. It also follows that this post will include an anecdote about my mother.
These days, my mother and father have a professional come to the house every few weeks to vacuum, dust, and scrub. Like anyone who employs a housekeeper, they do the mad dash just before she arrives to put everything away so she can concentrate on the scrubbing and not the putting away of things whose homes she does not know.
But when I was growing up, there was no budget for a housekeeper. Only rich people, like the ones on Benson, or later, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, hired housekeepers. I didn’t know anyone in my tiny life who had a housekeeper. It simply was not done.
In our house the children had chores, maybe. I don’t even really remember having a specific chore that was mine, but I can tell you that I really, really hated cleaning the bathroom, a task I loathe to this day. I also remember cleaning the kitchen, and the horrible dishwasher we had that was not a built-in, so we would have to hook it up to the faucet in the kitchen sink to run it, which of course meant that one could not get water from that sink while the dishwasher was running. I did laundry, too, and in that house the washing machine and dryer were in the basement which was two floors down, accessible only by a thousand-step rickety wooden staircase that snaked around the back of the exterior of the three-story house.
It was like we lived in a cartoon or a Tim Burton film.
What I seem to have retained most from my mother’s method of keeping house during my childhood was the cycle: she was chill about cleaning and picking up for a while, but then she would start to get sick of seeing our stuff all over the place, and the clutter and mess would eventually reach critical mass, at which point she would explode and shriek that we all needed to clean up already. And then the hammer would come down and nobody would be in a good mood again until we all pitched in and got the house back in working order.
Guess who does exactly the same thing now.
I don’t remember how long a period of the cycle lasted, but since this is all in my distant past, it feels like it took a few weeks for my mom to reach her boiling point. My family does not get the luxury of that long of a rest period. I think I get pretty sick of seeing everyone’s stuff laying around on a daily basis, and it is my own internal mantra that keeps me from complaining about it 100% of the time. I try to convince myself that it is not a big deal, that everyone is safe and happy and that is what is important, and that there will be time for cleaning up later. But more often than not, I will stomp through the house yelling a steady stream of outraged confusion:
“Why is the toy room such a mess when we just cleaned it up yesterday? Why are the LEGO’s not in the LEGO bin? Who took this 1,000-piece game out and left the pieces all over the floor? Why is there a sticky blue puddle on the kitchen floor? Where are the throw pillows for the couch? What is the remote doing in the bathroom? Why is this here? And why is this here?”
I suspect that Stewart and the boys don’t even hear me anymore. I can hear myself, and I tell myself that this rant is futile, yet it continues to happen. Also, I know exactly where it came from. My mother had three kids and I only have two – I understand how exhausting it is to keep all the balls in the air all the time. Who wants to spend all their time cleaning up after people? Might as well employ all the people in the house to pitch in.
I remember one super cool amazing thing my mother did once when I was at school. I came home one day to find that my terribly messy room had been straightened up and the bed was remade and fluffed up and the whole room was an oasis of calm and order and loveliness. She told me that the Cleaning Fairy had visited and cleaned my room for me. I totally believed her.
That happens in the House of Prince now, too, only it’s when I hire a housekeeper. Thank goodness that is now socially acceptable even though we are not the Fresh Princes of Bel Air.