The First World, it turns out, is pretty boring. Housework has consumed me, as I have had few outings besides Granny Water Aerobics and the doctor for shots in the patootie for low vitamin B12 levels. The doctor promises the latter will energize me, but so far, not so much. In the meantime, dealing with piles of stuff we still don’t know where to put, unwrapping all the boxes in the garage, and finding the right adaptor and light bulb for each lamp has nearly done me in. Time consuming, mind-numbing chores which have left no time for trips to the Prado, shopping in the Salamanca district, or ferreting out of markets where people bargain for crap in earnest.
As a child, I internalized Peggy Parish’s Amelia Bedelia, identifying with Mrs. Rogers*. Like Dr. Seuss’s Cat and the Hat (another story involving a big mess), I would get frustrated at the Cat or Amelia, the time crunch suspense of the stories making me anxious. What was wrong with these people/animals? Who doesn’t know how to strip a bed? When the Mexican maid put the toxic purple cleaning solution in the pantry next to the children’s juice my identification with Mrs. Rogers was complete; that was something Amelia would do. At the end of each story, after the horror of Amelia’s goof ups subsided, Mrs. Rogers would realize the nature of the misunderstandings and laugh it off. Hmmmm …. note to self. Attentiveness and communication are key components to any successful relationship, I eventually learned.
However, housework is a lot like riding a bicycle or loading a grocery store conveyor belt – repetitive, tedious, and you don’t ever forget how to do it (unless you are Amelia Bedelia). My mother made sure I knew how to do it all and I am trying to instill this in my children, should the world turn Communist and we, in turn, will have to become maids by profession. Over the years, I have thought a lot about this. Would I make a good maid? Absolutely not. Was I a maid in my former life? I don’t think so. (According to the Wild Rose, I was a fairy server queen, which might explain my liking to throw parties but not cleaning them up.) But in my future life I might become one, so it behooves me to conscientously wipe down the kitchen counters, wash out the garbage cans every once in awhile, and dust the tchotke, the value of which will be debated later.
Maids, like their cultures, have many different personalities. Some like to talk; some like only babies, not sassy seven year olds; some can forge miracles in a pressure cooker; some indulge in petty theft and gambling. I have had only one who preferred the solace of cleaning bathrooms and cleaning barbeque grills. I have tried to treat my maids well. I had about thirty of them in Mexico which, one might be inclined to say was my fault. Partially, I am sure, but also part of the culture. I also didn’t pay as well as I should have. I had a total of three in Brazil in five and a half years. Two maids in China and three drivers. I am as afraid of encountering my former employees in Heaven as I am the Lord; how you treat your employees is, to me, a major exercise in loving your neighbor as yourself. While I might think I am nice, they might have other ideas. Do you pay the going rate or a little above? Do you pay them on time? Are you compassionate? What do you do if your employee is lying to you? What do you do if your maid is Amelia Bedelia and you are Mrs. Rogers?
I will confess to having a “chica” come in for twelve hours a week. B’Olivia is slow but conscientious and we can communicate well. Hablando is a plus, far more effective than the combination of my fractured street Mandarin, noises, and hand gestures. She does all the stuff I decide I don’t want to do that week such as floors, bathrooms, and ironing. I have thus far ruined 2 loads of laundry with the inclusion of one offending pink t-shirt, purchased in New Jersey (hello, Conan O’Brien!) so perhaps should consider switching to floors. After the second load was tinged dusty rose, I threw the shirt out. The guest bedroom bed is my laundry staging area as my mother’s freezer was hers. It would be even nicer if there was a TV in the room.
Yesterday, preparing to submit my moving insurance claim, as I went over the lists of the items sent here to Spain and the items sent to storage in the US, I realized how downsized we had become, by choice and circumstance. The Halloween decorations are apparently in the US (my bad, apparently, as the list showed) and a Christmas tree went AWOL. Gone are three sets of soccer cleats, a computer monitor and keyboard, and other assorted items. I have a cymbal stand but no drums or cymbals. Princess Ai Lin, to whom I sold my safe, found some of my jewels inside last week. Moving, to be sure, clouds one’s thinking.
But more than any one thing, I am missing my family, friends, and a full-time Amelia Bedelia the most. There’s so much more to write about if one has the time to explore!
Housekeeping question: how often do you wash your towels? Do you hang out your laundry or use the dryer? If you hang out your wash, do you use fabric softener? Folks in the Pacific Northwest are exempt from answering the second question. Citizens of Arizona are not.
* Of course, the irony does not escape me.