Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Clean House

When I was growing up, my mother instilled in me the idea that it was necessary to always, always have your home clean and free of clutter.  Messiness was, as she described it, "a sign of a troubled mind".  So, we were taught to not make messes, and if we lapsed, to clean up immediately.  Her fear of having someone walk in to our home any minute of any day, was overwhelming and it became the operating principal for how we would live our lives.

My mother was a business woman, long before that was fashionable.  In fact, it was kind of odd to have a mother who went to work outside the home, full-time.  She held important positions and she enjoyed her life as a working woman.  Sure, there were things that I missed out on, but I must admit, there were also a lot of entries in the plus-column.  I was given huge amounts of trust and independence from an early age. Also,  I was afforded opportunities, courtesy of a second-income and we had some very nice vacations as a family.  I won't use this time to list the negative side of having a working mom but will say that there were a few and not least of all was the call to duty every Saturday when our house needed cleaning.

Mom did it all.  As I look back, I realize how incredible that was.  The microwave oven had not yet been invented.  We were lucky that we had T.V. and incredibly fortunate in that we had a washer, dryer and dishwasher.  Modernity had not yet come along and released my working mother from her duties.  She came home from a full day at the workplace and began her full time job as a wife, mother and homemaker.  We had full, home prepared meals every night.  Our clothes were washed, dried and ironed and in addition to all of our basic needs having been met, we also had entertainment, cultural excursions and lots of quality time with family and friends.  I cannot say that I recall ever hearing her complain about how difficult this all was to pull of or how tired she was at the end of the day.  She did what today's young mother would find impossible and I only regret that I did not fully give her the credit that she was due during her lifetime.

Getting back to the messy stuff that we were not allowed.  When it became my turn to maintain a home, I naturally followed in Mother's footsteps.  Oh, how I worried about the un-announced arrival of a visitor at our front door.  I prided myself on my own abilities to keep a clean and orderly home at the same time, making baby foods from scratch.  At the end of the day, toys were picked up and every vestige of the life that went on that day, vanished from sight.  Of course, I was exhausted at the end of the day and I did complain.....constantly.

But those days are as far gone as the Thursday evening late-openings of departments stores.  I'm a grandmother now.  I've learned a great number of things in my life so far but I know that there are so many more things that I still have to learn.  Life skills that have thus far eluded me.  I realize now that it is highly unlikely that there will be a knock on the door and that the only guests will be those who have been invited after mutual calendars were carefully reviewed and dates set, sometimes weeks in advance.  Life, after all, has changed very, very much.  Perhaps my mother was correct in her thinking.  Neighbors were more neighborly in her days as a young mother.  People actually did make spontaneous invitations after running into friends or neighbors out and about. "Come on over for cake and coffee when you're done here".  Mom thought nothing of it.  The invitee usually accepted the invitation, stopped by the bakery for a coffee cake, and came right on over.  Laughter and warmth are the things I best recall about these informal and unplanned gatherings.  The aroma of coffee and the cinnamon coffee cakes will forever remain in my memory.  Once in a while, a guest would bring Italian pastries, enough for the Italian Army!

And, the house was always ready for company.  Always.  

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