ThIs Is Why We Think We Can't Have Nice Things

Today, I left the house without making my bed. This may not sound like a big deal, but for me it was the ultimate act of rebellion and bravery. My mother warned me years ago that such abhorrent behavior could result in consequences of epic proportion. What if unexpected company shows up and thinks I'm a slob? Or, suppose, the Bed Patrol knocks on my door demanding a bed check, and news of my reprehensible housekeeping ends up as headlines?

In the 20 years I lived at home I can't recall ever seeing my parent's bed unmade. I'm convinced they slept on the floor.

Dishes never touched the bottom of our sink. My mother carried them from the table directly to the faucet, washed, dried and put them away instantly. On rare occasion a dish might find itself drying on the dish rack overnight, but that was only if someone other than my mother put it there and, trust me, they heard about it in the morning.

I grew up knowing that the beautiful Lenox dishes in our china cabinet were only for company, people we hardly knew and saw just a few time a year. These acquaintances also enjoyed sterling silverware, fine linen table clothes and cut crystal goblets. Libby jelly glasses, chipped Melmac dishes and mismatched silverware were what my mother used daily for those she loved and cared about.

Two decorative towels hung on our bathroom towel rack at all times. We were forbidden to use them and instructed to use the faded, frayed ones that doubled as dust rags. The pretty ones were, once again, for company. I suspect that if I used them, I would have choked on the accumulated dust from so many years of hanging there, unused.

Don't get me wrong, my mother was a sensational homemaker. She was always cleaning something. My friends had colorful porcelain ginger jars, and attractive flower arrangements artistically placed on their bathroom counters. Our bathroom sink was adorned with a can of Ajax cleanser and a sponge because my mother saw fit to wash the sink several times throughout each day.

In our basement was a huge professional steam iron like one you might see in the back room of your local cleaners. It sat atop the pool table in our basement, that came with the house because the last owners didn't know how to get it out. My mother would smooth the legs of my father's work pants as she placed them on the lower half of the large flat iron. She then pulled the upper half of the iron down, applied body pressure, and watched the steam escape. But that didn't happen until she first dipped the pants into heavy liquid starch. When they emerged from the iron they resembled two slabs of drywall, able to stand, unassisted. I have no idea why my father bought this monstrosity for my mother, but years later I decided it was nearly as romantic as the toaster my ex-husband brought me for our 10th wedding anniversary.

We had a weekly cleaning woman. Every Wednesday before Lulu came, my mother thoroughly cleaned the house so Lulu wouldn't think she was sloppy.

Lulu was loyal, and conscientious, but she had a lot of unused space in her head. One day she complained that she didn't like Daylight Savings Time because it made her tired. We explained that her body would adjust in a few days. Then she added, "The part I hate most is getting up at 2:00 AM to set my clock ahead or back, like the newsman says I should."

The day is nearly over and neither surprise company or the Bed Patrol have rung my doorbell. It appears that my willingness to gamble has paid off. And to think that rather than take such a chance my poor mother slept on the floor.

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