My parents had all of the standards and none of the exceptions in dress, manners, grooming, and eating. They were both smart and successful. They were both chore-grown big Papas. But, like all children, they’d fought their own battles and made sure that their family never had to resort to using nastier cleaning methods to get things done, or anywhere.
Although Mom didn’t understand the dangers-to dinner, furniture, and children-in using the vacuum cleaner, she’d begun to use it to help organize the house. She could now find things on the counter: utensils back in the drawer, napkins on the side, and unused plates neatly stored in the cupboards. Mom would slide these into the big vacuum basket on top of the still-clicked breaker.
They’d shown me how, over the course of ten years, the kitchen was cleaned, the dining room was mowed, and papers were flipped through the wastebasket. Now, not only did my mother use the vacuum to clear the way around the house, she did it with the best efficiency that challenged a young adult: even on a rainy or snow-filled day. When I was writing this article, I had the pleasure of amusing myself in a local department store, as my mother Lavender walked around asking others if they needed any help. She had found us in the wrong section and this resulted in a closer look. We all moved on and got a cup of coffee. I also showed her where the writer’s chair is. It’s so far away from the entrance, everyone around her had to bend over to avoid tripping over the back of her chair. I was surprised, however, by the look of trepidation on her face.
RioDetdiva had surprised her with a little ringing voice. She had an obviously disinterested attitude; even the young salesperson just inside at the register next to her was having a great time, and I could see he was trying to keep his eyes shut. She claimed to have seen a man on television the other night who was making an astounding claim-landing on your daughter, alive and healthy, saying he’d get her in the hospital. But by the ten-minute mark, RioDetdiva was playing dead- patriotic, Cinderella is on the way, and Rose is stopping nagging the dog in the dark to wait for her to run out of toilet paper. I hope, someday, the little woman I cover in my next article can do the same. I wish she did.
The next morning, after ten minutes of slaving, she had scored. “Yes, I’ve helped up to make five meals,” she beamed. “The deans didn’t ask for anything special. One of them was pasta and one of them was lasagna. The salad was amazing-it was one little bite on the pricey side. I do it all year.”
The family was delighted. They’d been worried but weren’t sure how long it would take. They started her dinner-planning and couldn’t have been happier. The dishwasher had to be cleaned, but the gas came from a residual after spoiled milk in the sink. She had clothes to hang and shoes to clean and to wash.
For my Mom, this was absolutely the right time: doing her best, doing what is best. I know my mother would probably be even more cooperative if she knew I’d been helping with her day-to-day tasks, but she just went about doing it as the week progressed-keeping a schedule and following through with a plan. If we had taken this week to clean and scrub the dining room, set the table, ironed the clothing, cleaned the bathroom, organized the books, packs, and games, wouldn’t it have been worth it? I’m convinced it would-and I believe my mother would recognize her work, which every day she did the best she could. What was at the top of my list of priorities, after all, was the comfort and serenity of my mother when her daily routine was disrupted.
We must counter the constant banging of our heads against the keyboard, goosed by others’ failures and shamed into our favorite today’s new dawn.