Friday, April 2, 2010

I Loved Lucy

The other day my daughter had her first play date with a friend from class. It’s the same play date I forgot to pick her up from, so it’s already a memorable occasion for my daughter. When I arrived at her friend’s house I had a fabulous chat with her mother, who I liked very much and is very down to earth. A quick glance around her home revealed two things: 1) the house was extremely neat, clean, and tidy and 2) I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to have her daughter over without giving my home the “first book club meeting” kind of clean. While sitting at our table later that evening my daughter said to me, “Mom, do you think their house is always that clean?” “I’m not sure,” was my response. A few minutes passed before she said, “Do you think we can ever get our house keeper back?” It’s amazing how a 9 year-old girl knows exactly where a verbal knife wound bleeds the most.

I’m wondering if there is any way I can get our medical insurance to pay for having a house keeper since it is causing my daughter emotional anxiety to live in our current state of “Crapville.” Most insurances cover therapy, so having a housekeeper could actually be considered a preventative wellness measure. Unfortunately for my daughter, a good portion of the reason the house is in its current condition is because of her desire to create things using small bits of paper, wire, beads, tin foil, sharpies, scissors, and glue sticks. The entire house isn’t her fault, but a good portion of the toy room is.

Sigh. Sigh again. I’d LOVE to reinstate a house cleaner and relive those fabulous months two years ago when someone came to our house bimonthly and cleaned it. That period of time ranks right up there with my wedding day and honeymoon—some of the best days in my life. I know I have no business having housekeeper when I stay at home with my kids. Isn’t that part of the stay-at-home job description: “Shall keep all surfaces cleaned and spotless with your own effort?” If it’s not written in the chapter titled “How to be Perfect” I’m pretty sure it's implied. I’m betting that many-a domestic engineer has herself a person to clean the house, but you won’t hear her shouting it from the rooftops. At least not in the circles I run in.

I recall with baby-picture-fondness those glorious moments when Lucy* came and how she changed the entire dynamic of our family. My children would come home from school, throw open the front door, take a deep, long inhale and exclaim with Christmas excitement, “LUCY CAME TODAY!!” They would walk into their rooms, fan open their arms and with heads thrown back, twirl in the free space on their carpets in Sound of Music fashion. Even my husband came home from work, opened the door, and had a look of instant pleasure on his face. “How much does this cost again?” he queried as he lay in his neatly pressed bed, reading a book.” After I told him, he smiled. “That’s really worth it.” This is a huge statement for my husband, who’s hardwired to perform all tasks himself and make things we need by hand in order to save money. The kids were happy. My husband was happy. I was delirious with joy all the time.

Then the recession hit. We said goodbye to Lucy and hello to the life we currently live. Don’t get me wrong, I had grand ideas about how I was going to keep the house up just like Lucy: one day a week my friend on the street and I would exchange children for four hours or so while the other person flew through their house with Windex, Murphy’s Oil Soap, rags, brooms, and mops. We’d dust, vacuum, clean the toilet bowls, wipe the baseboards, make all the beds, in the few hours we were childless. It would be easy. It would be cheap. The house would be clean.

I think that we ended up exchanging children a total of twice. I must say that during those two times I actually cleaned this house top to bottom in three hours, a total record. I had to prep by swilling four cups of strong coffee, blasting the cleaning music, and when I finished I was out of breath and panting, but it happened. It probably hasn’t happened that well since. It also gave me a new appreciation for all that Lucy did in the four hours she was at my home, and confirmed yet again, that I really, really, hate to clean.

Tomorrow is another day—one we are starting with chores written on strips and placed in a bucket for the kids to draw from. There will be a significant amount of whining, complaining, stomping, muttering-under-the-breath, and general parental hatred going on tomorrow morning. We didn’t experience the breadth of these emotional disturbances in quite this way when Lucy was a part of our lives. I’ll just tell my kids that tomorrow’s cleaning session is simply a proactive mental wellness exercise to prevent more years in counseling because of having to live in filth and squalor. For my part, all I have to say is, “Lucy, I miss you.”

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