Issue 26

Household Chores


                I remember the exact moment when chores first became a part of my life.  My brother and I had woken early one morning and decided to surprise Mom by cleaning the toilet.  Two rolls of toilet paper later, we had a porcelain and tile masterpiece.  Mom’s timing was amazing: she came out of her bedroom just as we finished.  “What a beautiful job you two did,” she said.  Then she showed us how to really clean a bathroom – with a rag and a horrible smelling disinfectant – and my Saturday mornings were never the same.

                I thank my mother for this lesson early in life.  It taught me the old military axiom, “Never volunteer,” although I’m not really sure how well I’ve learned it.  Rebecca and I own our house, which is effectively the same thing as volunteering both our Saturday and Sunday to household chores.  Although there’s a lot of things we have to do on a regular basis to keep the house in order, Rebecca says the dogs are responsible for most of the mess in the house.  She suspects this is intentional on their part; right after we vacuum up all of the dog hair, one of the dogs will invariable run through the kitchen with muddy feet and jump on the guest room bed.

                Rebecca and I don’t see eye-to-eye on just how clean to clean.  When company is due to come over, she scrubs her hardest, wanting not only everything to be spotless, but for it to stay that way until company arrives.  If I were to try to clean the house for Christmas to the degree Rebecca would like me to, I should have started back in November.  I must say that my method is somewhat more considerate of guests to my house.  My ultimate goal is to not make my guests uncomfortable thinking I spent the last fifteen hours cleaning just for them but to subtly suggest that I actually haven’t had the chance to clean and that this is what my house looks like all the time.  And let’s face facts here: no guest, other than perhaps my mother-in-law, really checks to see if I vacuumed behind the piano.

                On that note, I don’t understand why vacuums have a height adjustment.  Of course I’m going to use the lowest setting.  I want the carpet lifted up with the force of an elephant and all the dirt sucked up because I only want to vacuum once a month.

                Rebecca seems to really enjoy watching me do household chores.  I can think of a thousand other things I’d rather do than watch someone else dust, especially since I always start to feel guilty that I’m only watching and not helping.  But not Rebecca. She’ll sit back with her cup of coffee and watch me for hours.  She reminds me of the people who visit the zoo every day and spend most of their visit watching the monkeys.  Not a whole lot going on that’s different than the last time.  The other day she told me to vacuum while she took a nap.  I pointed out the obvious that a vacuum makes a lot of noise, especially when I bang the vacuum into the furniture.  “Trust me,” she said, “I’ll sleep better if I can hear you vacuuming.”  Sometimes I wonder what planet she’s really from.

                Skylar, my seven-month old, has already begun to contribute to the household routine.  He is quite excellent at unfolding clothes and his eye for finding chunks of dirt, clumps of dog hair, and missing sewing pins is a wonder to behold.  Even the dogs are starting to come around; the area around Skylar’s high chair where he eats is spotless.

                I recently discovered that some chores really aren’t all that bad when I found that I could unload the dishwasher in less time than it took to play a single track off of one of Rebecca’s Cuban jazz music CDs.  Suddenly I realized that most chores don’t actually take that long to do.  What makes chores so daunting is that there are so many of them.

                Of course, there is a certain satisfaction I feel at the end of a chore day which is only possible after I’ve exhausted myself in order to make my home relaxing and comfortable.  It’s the difference between earning what I have and living off of someone else’s effort.  I kick up my feet and reflect that I’ve been doing chores since I was four years old. I take great pride in my contribution to the household and I see no reason to hire someone else to come and clean my home.

                After all, to my reckoning, it’s only three years, four months, seventeen days, six hours, twelve minutes, and forty-five seconds until I teach Skylar his first axoim about the military.


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