There is a mountain of shoes in our foyer. There is a jacket on a bench, a jacket on the back of a chair, a jacket on the desk and a jacket on the floor (note to self: get rid of some of the damn jackets). The glasses of water the children had to have because they would otherwise die of thirst sit on tables virtually untouched. “But Not the Hippopotamus” peeks out from under the radiator. The dining room table is covered in newspaper that needs to be recycled. There are socks on the bedroom door knob and there is a Transformer in one of the socks. There is a tube of lanolin and a beach towel on the banister. Welcome to my house, throw your shit everywhere and make yourself right at home. Before having kids, this kind of clutter would have never been acceptable to me but, now, I can step over the scooter to let the cat out without giving it another thought. My mother was a single mom for most of her life. There was barely enough money despite full-time work and overtime. She would come home after work, make dinner and then do the dishes. The house was always immaculate – no dust, no crunchy kitchen floor, no mysterious sticky substance on the table. There were always crisp sheets and gleaming white toilets. The yard was a showcase with a beautiful lawn and amazing gardens. I imagined the marigolds were my mother’s little soldiers, always standing at attention and keeping the weeds at bay. There was order to everything and, yet, I never saw my mother clean or garden. It was a miracle.
This week, I was talking to my sister about all of this. I was telling her how tired I am in the evenings and how I just don’t feel like doing anything but I have to make myself do things or succumb to utter chaos.
Vikki: How did mom do it all?
Sis: Mini whites.
Vikki: What? Is that a cleaning service?
Sis: Mini whites. You know? White crosses.
Sis underestimates my naïveté. She can hear my blank stare through the phone.
Sis: Speed, Vikki. Speed.
How about that? Better home management through chemicals!* It's no wonder that I can't compete. I may have a moldy bag of lemons in my pantry but, by god, I am drug-free.
*My mother’s doctor gave it to her and described it as a "little burst of energy in a pill". Apparently, many helpful doctors prescribed speed for women so that they could manage everything. The practice fell out of favor in the early 80’s when the drugs became harder to get and, well, the facts about the resulting heart damage came to light.