Amelia Bedelia et al.


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.



Filed under Domesticity, Life, Misunderstandings, Moving, People, Uncluttering

16 responses to “Amelia Bedelia et al.

  1. MCV

    Well, due to the whole H1N1 scare, I’m essentially washing my towels after every use . . . I have a super sized, front loading washer/dryer. The size of the washer/dryer is a direct result of having a Hello Kitty sized washer and NO dryer in Italy, where all clothes air dried and frequently smelled moldy in the winter. One reason why Italians are so keen on perfume.

    MCV was here

  2. flaky friend

    We wash towels about two times a week. I am very fortunate in that our nanny still works for us two days a week and does a lot of laundry, which helps a lot. She has kind of turned into a house manager and will be with us as long as the kids are at home and she wants to be. As far as cleaning – I feel your pain. It is mind numbing and I am glad you have some help. Also – my mantra is that it can always wait if there is something fun to do. Hang in there.

  3. flaky friend

    P.S. Your post reminds me of a new favorite novel, “The Help” by Katherine Stockett. It is her first novel and I could not put it down.

  4. SmartAlecAngela

    I’m chuckling as I read your blog. Amelia Bedelia was a favorite read of mine growing up. I sometimes share a similar absentmindedness. I have found items that should have been refrigerated neatly placed in the pantry. I’m talking about very obvious things like a gallon of milk! In regards to laundry, I wash our towels 3x per week, give or take. I always use fabric softener, preferably the liquid kind. I would never hang my clothes out in the yard. That would require extra work, which I am not a fan of.

  5. mood ring mama

    I am a minor version of Amelia Bedelia, but not for cleaning abilities. I have been known to recycle my cell phone (in the large rolly bin) requiring a dumpster dive & a lot of luck to recover. My husband, however, is the male version, spot on. (FYI – I asked him to hang the string of halloween lights around our door and 2 weeks later he did — with duct tape!!! And of course duct tape, in addition to being butt ugly, does not adhere for long to stucco. Now the candy corns are in a heap at my front door and I refuse to touch them. Agggh!)

  6. gamamae

    I have decided I will invest in Meyers cleaning products which are ” all” natural, and also aromatherapy for the home with scents like Lavender, Basil, Lemon verbena and Geranium. The uplifting and or relaxing scents are in fact enjoyable and non nauseating.I use fabric softener sheets( Basil and Lavender), towels are washed 2 times a week and rotated. If I get inspired to dust, it happens first, onto the floor then aspirador goes into action. I seem to have a hard time with the tidyness.
    I’d like a personal assistant- they would tidy up, do specified prep work so I could swoop in and prepare a fabulous meal, then they would clean up. Ironing and follow through with kids on putting their clean clothes away would be nice too.

  7. Princess Ai Lin

    Reading of your post comes the day after a super-grumpy bad china/general bad attitude day. My begrudging the over-paid hired help played no small part in my scowl yesterday, so this was a great reminder. Her offense of putting the expensive beef tenderloin in the freezer without telling/asking me, which resulted in my inablity to cook the FAB dinner I had pieced together (not an easy task here) the ingredients for, is IN FACT forgiveable. And I don’t have to feel bad about over paying her a tad. AND – I should be excited rather than anxious about my driver that starts on Monday! We all do, really, have a not to be thankful for, no?

  8. maria

    Hi darling!I ´m sure you will find time to Prado and shopping as soon as you finish your boxes…
    My advice to the house cleaning sounds mad but it has been working here for the last 7 years(with help as you know).Split the area in 6 zones and do everything (cleaning,laudry etc) in zone 1 on mondays,zone 2 tuesdays etc….do you think I´m crazy?

  9. Klab

    Ummmm…. would comment but have to go fold laundry & wash towels.


  10. MCV: your washer and dryer ROCK. Would kill for them.

    FF: am going to remember your mantra! Thanks for the cheer me up phone call and the book tout!

    Smarty: but you live in AZ and your towels would dry in a NY minute! I did not know about your absentmindedness. Good to know.

    MRM: yes, you are married to Amelia Bebillia! The lights with a duct tape is a lasting image. How many times have you walked over them so far?

    Gammy: I love that stuff! I even put a tad in my air freight and am having MRM bring me some of the William’s Sonoma stuff. Meyer’s and WS is not yet available in Madrid. Am going to lobby Zara Home to come up with a line!!!

    Maria: Zones do not sound bad to me. It actually sounds very sane. Will try it out this week.

    PAL: Glad I could be of service! I have been there … thanks for the Sunday chat.

    Klab: are your towels monogrammed and if so, in what font????

  11. mood ring mama

    To further crystalize what it is like to be married to Mr. Bedilia, here is a classic from today – he brought home a Baskin Robins ice cream cake for our son’s 12 birthday around 11:00. At about 2:00 he realized it was still in the car . . .

  12. MRM: at least it was not summer … how goopy was it to clean up? Did you go get another cake?

  13. MCV

    Another cake was not needed. The ice cream was just fairly soupy. Still good however.

  14. Mood Ring Momma

    . . . and the top was slowly sliding down the 4 sides – it tasted just fine though. A girl would have been distraught, but my son didn’t even comment on the wacky appearance.

  15. I suppose I do not do the towels enough, but keeping track of matching pairs is hard. Also when you get older, you do not get as dirty as you once did. Now I am washing them as much for mildew as anything. I am about a 5-7 day. Always in my Haines house it was only once a week at best.

  16. Radish: Ick. Aren’t your towels all white, though? What pairs are there to match?

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