Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hazardous Housecleaning

            I’m not the Messiest Housekeeper in the Central Susquehanna Valley…but I am the first runner-up. So if the Messiest Housekeeper is ever unable to fulfill her responsibilities, I get to fill her shoes…if I can find them under the clutter.
            What exactly are the duties of the region’s sloppiest sovereign? Spread newspapers around the living room? Slide used cereal bowls under the sofa? Drop wet towels on the bedroom rugs? Roll dirty socks inside out into little balls? I don’t think so. My children did all that without even being asked.
            So what are her responsibilities? Isn’t that just the point? She became the messiest housekeeper by avoiding them. I know. As first runner-up, I’ve been there.
            I’m still there.
I can’t get out!
            First it was a matter of principle:  I’m not scraping soap scum off the shower because I’m bonding with my baby. A few decades ago, someone wrote a poem about this noble neglect. It included these inspiring lines:
Cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
Cause babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow…
So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
            This verse was the war cry of a generation of breastfeeding mothers. The problem is my last baby is 21 years old and a foot taller than me, and the cobwebs and dust have grown along with him.
            Babies don’t keep. Neither do poems, apparently. Spring cleaning can be done in the time it takes to write a good poem. Or a bad one. When inspiration hits, I’ve got to get it down on paper, or better yet, onto my hard drive. Get out the rhyming dictionary and the thesaurus. It might take hours or even days. While the computer’s on, I might as well play a few games of Solitaire. Do you agree the new Solitaire is way harder than the older version? I only have a 5% win rate, but I keep trying. When I finally win, I love the tinkling glass sound the cards make as they break apart and fall down.
Guess how much housework gets done.
            The poet didn’t have time to dust, but she had time to compose a poem and publish it across America. And this was before Al Gore invented the Internet. Countless mothers have found time to cross stitch the same poem, frame it, and hang it in their disheveled houses.
            The truth of the matter is my DNA doesn’t contain the Clean Gene. I need a 1950s television wife. Somebody to greet me at the door with a cold drink. Somebody to keep the house sparkling and the kids well-behaved—well, it’s too late for the kids. Somebody to prepare creative, nutritious meals. Somebody for whom keeping house is poetry.
Why do I have to be the wife?
            You either possess the Clean Gene or you don’t. Some people’s Clean Gene is so dominant they can’t pass it on. They’re too busy scrubbing to reproduce.
            Genetics is a fascinating science. Do you remember Gregor Mendel, the monk who discovered heredity? I heard he was too busy experimenting with pea plants to wash windows at the monastery. Reviewing my old high school biology notes is much more appealing than disinfecting toilets.
            Every summer I attempt to defy my genetic destiny and clean my house, neglected throughout the school year.
Cleaning and scrubbing can wait till the summer,
Cause students grow up, and that’s a bummer.
      So almost two weeks ago, while I was vigorously vacuuming the living room, my genetic destiny defied me right back. Right in my back, to be more precise.
Ten days later, after painkiller megadoses and heat gave little relief, I invested a $25 co-pay and visited my doctor, then invested a little more at CVS Pharmacy for steroids and muscle relaxants. I finally have something in common with MLB players. 
I’m going to look buff, but you won’t see me since I’m too woozy to drive anywhere…and I haven’t even filled the narcotic prescription. Next week I will invest yet more money as I begin physical therapy.
It doesn’t take the Math Gene to realize I could have saved money if I had paid someone with the Clean Gene to deal with my carpet.
I have to look on the bright side. With this setback, my chance of winning Messiest Housekeeper skyrockets. I hope last year’s winner can find the tiara.


  1. Oh, you are better off. I have the Clean Gene and it keeps me from writing a witty blog like you. Praying for that back thing though. I can recommend a great Chiropractor if you need one!

  2. Look at you! Since when have you been blogging? My boss (and her neat freak grown up daughter) are convinced I have the Clean Gene, but it only seems to activate when I'm at work. Otherwise, I can't get anything clean at home....hope you back gets better!

  3. "You either possess the Clean Gene or you don’t. Some people’s Clean Gene is so dominant they can’t pass it on. They’re too busy scrubbing to reproduce." this is now my #1 excuse for why John and I aren't having children. :o)

  4. Now, Roberta, this really spoke to me and you said it so well. When I sold my father's house and found this wonderful apartment, I felt God was giving me a second chance to be a diehard cleaner. My vow was to never see see clutter again. I guess I heard God wrong as not only do I have clutter, I have added knitting as a hobby to my reading(books, books, and more books!)but also areas that should be arranged, sorted or whatever. Oh well................ I hear the knitting needles calling. :)