I read a post yesterday by Kristen over at Motherese that reminded me of a great lesson I learned years ago before children. My mother was obsessively clean. One day, I came home from a date. We had gone to a basketball game at the local university and when he dropped me off at home my mother was down at the street scrubbing the curb with a scrub brush. I raced past her into the house, knowing my date had noticed but pretending I didn’t know her. When it was safe to venture outside I asked her, “Why are you scrubbing the curb?” She told me that it was dirty. I laughed and said, “That’s what street cleaners (the big trucks – not the people!) are for.”
She said, with a straight face and all honesty, “But they don’t do a good enough job.”
That, my friends, is what I grew up with. Our house always looked like we were expecting royalty. Everything scrubbed. Everything shiny. Anything with the slightest bit of wear was tossed and replaced. I vowed never to be like that.
And then, I moved out on my own.
I lived with roommates during college and it drove me crazy. They would leave dishes in the sink. Never vacuum. The bathroom? Ick.
I could finally afford my own place. Heaven.
I had a place for everything and everything in its place. Before I moved in I scrubbed like I’ve never scrubbed before. From that moment on, every speck of dirt was mine. And I’d would always clean it before it could set up permanent residence.
During my neat freak days I married – another fellow neat freak – and we lived happily. And then I met Erin. We had so much in common. We were like long-lost sisters. We read the same books. We both taught at the same school. We went to movies and school functions together.
One Saturday, our plans changed. Her husband had to go into the office and couldn’t watch the kids. Would I like to come over to her house? Sure. We could visit while the kids played. I had never been to her home before. She had toddler twins and our excuse was always to get her out of the house.
I showed up. Punctual. (That trait came along with my tidiness) I knocked on the door. “Come in!” a voice called from inside. I walked in. The side door that I entered brought me almost immediately into the kitchen. To say I saw a mess would be an understatement. Dishes piled sky-high. Spatters on the wall. I smelled syrup and, sure enough, the mess resembled breakfast made by 3 year olds. I stuck to the floor.
“Over here!” she called from the family room. I tiptoed through the mess. There she was, sitting in the middle of the floor, with two little cherubs on either side of her. They were swimming in a sea of every book they owned. There wasn’t a place for me to step. I stood at the doorway, confused. As I had been gingerly tiptoeing through her home I was thinking, am I here on the wrong day? wrong time? This is the first time I’ve come to your home. You’d think she’s pick up a little.
My thoughts were interrupted. “I’m sorry about the mess, ” Erin said, “But every since these little angels arrived, ” and she kissed them each on top of the head, “I’ve learned that there are some things that are more important.”
From that moment on – I was cured.
(Oops! I almost forgot. Happy Hanukkah to all my friends who celebrate this wonderful holiday!)