Monthly Archives: May 2015

It’s Genetic

Must be in the genes.

What incites us to clean with such zeal when we expect company? The closer the kin, the deeper the level of “clean” is required.

The “us” to whom I refer are individuals of the female gender.  None of the males I know seem to be infected with the super-clean bug.

I saw the cutest cartoon, I’ll paraphrase here.

A father directs his two girls’ attention to their rooms. “We need to clean up the house, it’s pretty bad.”

The more precocious of the two girls asked, “What level of clean are we talking about, Dad? She listed out the possibilities; “Mom-Clean or Hospital ICU clean?” The father shook his head to each query.

His expression took on a more serious composure and he spoke in a hushed tone. “Grandma-Clean.”  His girls scurried off with brooms and rags.

I joke about this and yet as I type I sit here in a sweat soaked tee shirt. I spent a good deal of this week, which reached a climax today, in Grandma-Clean mode. My little sister is coming for a visit tomorrow.

I’m not as obsessed as some members of my husband’s family, who for sake of embarrassment shall remain anonymous here. They’ve been known to not only clean the house, but paint the house. Not just the interior. On one such visit, I recall we drove right past my in-laws home. The exterior sported a new hue, rendered necessary by the impending arrival of relatives from back East.

I plead insanity due to family genetics. My grandmother, on my mom’s side, was said to clean her house to a standard that enabled one to “eat off of the floor in any room.”

Why do we care? Does anyone, besides my own mother, rest in peace, look at the quality of housekeeping when they come to visit you and your family?

My own mother, infected with that same genetic disorder I described earlier, saw every visit as an opportunity for a white glove inspection. Mom’s other obsession, to arrive “on time.” Mom was always early, a good hour early.  Way before the designated time the events were scheduled to begin. Each time, Mom seemed to be surprised when greeted at the door, by me, with a sweeper attached to my other hand. Mind you, not an early arrival to help out, just more time to poke around.

On a past visit, she emerged from my guest bathroom and announced to all seated at the dining room table; “Kathy, there is some black, gunky stuff in your sink. I’d spent the previous hour in preparation. I scrubbed every surface and decked out the racks with fresh, color coordinated towels.

All I could muster was, “Thanks so much, Mom.”

OK, back to the mop and broom or I won’t be ready. My sister’s plane lands at nine, tomorrow morning.

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Honor your Mother


Rummaging in my box of cards, I found a Mother’s Day card I’d purchased, but never sent.  I planned too far ahead that year. Mom was no longer at an address serviced by the US Postal department.

I’remember many Mother’s Day celebrations, for my own mom, her mom, mom’s in law and the celebrations of my own motherhood.

Mother’s Day was the one holiday orchestrated by our dad. “Stand still.” A stern look from Dad, as we twisted and squirmed. The toasty temperatures in the Midwest heralded an early summer.  A line that never seemed to move, at the fancy smorgasbord in Hagerstown, became an endurance test. A testament to how much we loved Mom. We did not connect this expenditure on Mother’s Day to frugal meals of scrambled eggs and toast for dinner in days to come.

“Kids, have you made cards for Mom?”

Back when I was a kid, the majority of families had a dad to coordinate the gifts and a special meal that would honor his children’s mother.  Single moms today are beneficiaries of grade school teachers who inspire their children to commemorate their mothers with art projects.

For a brief time I walked in those shoes. Grateful when my son’s teacher shared a comment she received, “Nick, how old is your Mom?”  I laughed aloud when she repeated his answer.

“She’s about twenty.”  Nick is blind, but still I appreciated his proclamation of my youthful age.

“Thanks for sharing, it made my day.”  The momentous occasion of my thirtieth birthday, the previous month, felt more like sixty when reinstated in the singles dating scene.

Reality hit me in the gut, that first Mother’s Day. No dad in residence. My children were not of an age to go shopping for a gift, let alone bankroll the elaborate meals of past years, funded by their father.  I sensed expectation in their faces and bewilderment at the lack of celebration.

I put together an impromptu picnic. We sat in the shade and I mused over what Mother’s Day truly meant for me. “I am so glad you are my kids.” I told my boys how much I loved them. “I’m so glad to be your mom.”

Deep appreciation for my own mother surfaced. She’d weathered many years of “no father in residence” holidays.  Humbled, I shuffled along in my mom’s worn and threadbare house slippers. I redoubled my efforts to celebrate with her, at any opportunity, every year.

The last day I spent in celebration of my mom’s special day, found her silver hair well coiffed at the salon in her assisted living facility.   Clad in a bright pink top that showed off the special pin she’d made in crafts at her assisted living residence. It was a diaper pin, strung with bright beads that spelled MOTHER.  She rolled her eyes as I admired her work.

I wasn’t sure if disdain or humor emerged from the fog of her dementia. “I’ve spent plenty of time fooling with diapers and pins. Never thought of them as jewelry.”

Happy Mother’s Day to you.  You washed your share of diapers and wiped many tears with the same cloth. I hope there is a good internet connection in heaven so you can read my blog.


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