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. Moms 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 Im not really sure
how well Ive 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 theres 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 dont 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 havent had the chance to clean and that
this is what my house looks like all the time. And lets 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 dont understand why vacuums have a height adjustment.
Of course Im 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 Id rather do than watch someone else
dust, especially since I always start to feel guilty that Im only
watching and not helping. But not Rebecca. Shell 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 thats 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,
Ill sleep better if I can hear you vacuuming. Sometimes I
wonder what planet shes 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 Skylars high chair where he eats is spotless.
I recently discovered that some chores really arent 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 Rebeccas Cuban jazz music CDs.
Suddenly I realized that most chores dont 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 Ive exhausted myself in order to make
my home relaxing and comfortable. Its the difference between
earning what I have and living off of someone elses effort. I
kick up my feet and reflect that Ive 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, its 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.