My dad used to like to tell this joke about a man and his wife. They had a dinner party and at the end of the meal guest offered to help clean up. The man said “Naw, soap and water’ll get it done..” Another guest chimed in saying there were quite a few dishes, wouldn’t he let them help. Again the man said “Soap and water are all the help I need.” The guest insisted on helping, so the man finally relented and told the guest to please put their plates on the floor. They found this request odd, but complied, and then the man whistled and shouted “Hey Soap, Hey Water, here boys! Come lick these plates clean up!”
I worry a lot about what other people think of me. This worry penetrates every aspect of my life like that fungus in our bathroom that keeps popping up on the ceiling even after we’ve painted the whole damn thing with a gallon of Kilz and bleached the fo’-snizzle out of it. I don’t like to have people over because I don’t feel my house is ever clean enough. I’m sure most people have houses that aren’t always clean, but I feel like mines just dirty. I don’t know why I’d feel like that. I mean, I didn’t just vacuum up an entire dog out of my bedroom, or ignore the dishes last night, and generally I do the laundry in the living room, so there’s
sometimes nearly always a basket or three in there, no, I definitely don’t do that. We do have a small house, like just under 1200 sq. ft. with 6 people, so clutter adds up QUICK!
Still, I do my best to maintain some level of sanitation and the appearance of a bit of organization. I judge my house’s cleanliness based on my kids friends houses, who most times are in totally different situations than us, rendering a clean house easier to maintain. Not that I think other people don’t have things to do besides clean, but lets face it, if you have 2 kids who are both over the age of 9 and only work part-time, there are less people to clean up after. AND those people really are completely capable of helping out. That’s not us, and I feel like I’m always falling short of some imaginary goal.
My house is still always cleaner than the house I grew up in. My moms a hoarder. Currently her house is always clean because my step father doesn’t put up with her crap and is making her slowly clean out her 3! storage units and give the stuff away. Funny story- I once helped my mom with one of her garage sales. Among all the “as seen on T.V.” products and weird once popular collectible (beanie babies anyone?) and funky old lady house decor, she had tables of scrapbooking stuff that was never opened.
Apparently, when I was into scrapbooking, and would go and buy the supplies I needed as I did a page, ending up with some extras that I’d store and share or use as they fit into a new page, she started accumulating scrapbook supplies in triplicate. Her thought was her, my grandmother and I would scrapbook together. That was sweet and all, but you have to realize that my grandmother had absolutely zero interest in scrapbooking, and well, I lived in Tennessee at the time, not Kentucky. She also neglected to tell us that she even had plans for us to scrapbook together, but continued to accumulate massive amount of stuff.
Ok so I don’t know if I’m getting this across to you guys. Imagine this. You roll up on a garage sale, and there are 3 nine foot long folding tables filled with boxes of this stuff. In addition, there are large boxes full underneath every table. As the day went on, and we continued to empty the garage, we added to the stuff. People kept asking if my mother had owned a scrapbook store that had gone out of business. I just told them we were waiting to hear back regarding our tape submission to the show “Intervention.” My mom didn’t really find much of this funny and spent most of the day alternating between hiding in the back of the garage and drinking her hidden stash of warm beer, interacting with garage sale goers by telling them way to many personal details, or fighting with people about the value of her junk.
So yeah, I grew up with “stuff” everywhere, but usually it wasn’t neat, tidy, or sanitary. It wasn’t for lack of trying on my part, but one kid can’t clean up after 4 other people, along with staying on top of dishes, laundry, and other things that need to be done around the house. So it was pretty much a total mess all the time, and I never wanted anyone to know where I lived so they wouldn’t come over.
But I it was really the only experience I’ve had up until yesterday.
Nate asked to spend the night at a friends house, we said ok. I’ve meet the boys mom and he’s an extremely polite child and they live just a street over from us. The boys are back an forth between the houses all the time. But, I’ve never been closer to their house than the street. So last night, drive Nate over to drop him off, and he boys father rushes inside from his smoke break on the front porch and through the window I see it. The “crap, people are here, and the house is a mess, hide it all, HIDE IT ALL,” shuffle I knew so well from childhood. Except in our house, it was hard to hide the couch that blocked our front hallway because the living room wasn’t clean enough to move it in there. I don’t know who we thought we were fooling.
I walk up the walk way, noting the casserole dishes on the front porch, probably filled with food that has been spoiled for months, but was just cleaned out of the fridge the last few days. Ours were always on the back porch because we were classy like that. The door is opened and Oh. My. Goodness. I tried so hard to not look around. So fucking hard. I didn’t want to make the dad feel bad, because I know that feeling. I did a cursory glance around the place as he kicked a stack of newspapers out of sight, and noted it wasn’t dirty, just packed full of broken crap, clothes, and junk. But I didn’t want to leave my baby there. I couldn’t come up with any reason to tell him no at that moment. I mean it would have been so awkward infront of Nate’s friend and his dad.
I introduced myself, told them Nate needed to be home at 11:30 in the morning and told Nate to be polite, listen and to call me if he needed anything or wanted to come home for some reason (PLEASE WANT TO COME HOME!).
He took off with his friend and I slumped out the the car. I drove home wondering if things were going to be ok. I started thinking maybe he’d get hurt, or shot when they accidentally found a gun buried in the couch, or that he’d get fed a pot brownie, or other bad things could happen to him. But then I stopped myself. I don’t believe that environment is the best place to raise a kid, but that doesn’t mean they are bad, completely irresponsible people. I’ve met them, and their son has spent a lot of time around us, and nothing before ever made me think poorly of them. I would have been so ashamed if someone thought that of me if they’d come to my house growing up.
I won’t lie, my tendency to worry about the worst case, kept Nate on my mind, and I counted down till 11:30 this morning, when he’d be home at our dog-hair-tumble-weed infested, disorganized, fingerprinted wreck of a house. And I have resolved that most of the sleep overs will take place from here now on, but he was fine. He had fun. His friend wasn’t humiliated by the way his family keeps their house, and he had a friend over. Even if that’s not my life now, it was once upon a time.
It felt like I was being a friend to that little girl I used to be.
Then I scrubbed down my walls with soap and water.