I woke up this morning with one goal in my mind: clear off and put away the items on the love seat and two small chairs in my bedroom that have been serving as “hot spots” for the last several months! It is now 12:45, I haven’t even gotten to the first item on the love seat because my morning has been filled with other more urgent matters that were not on my agenda.
First, I needed to reply to a couple of important messages. Then my husband asked if I would call the glasses place to see if his new eyewear was in (it wasn’t). We have had some guests for the last couple of weeks so I gathered and took the linens to the laundry room to get rid of that item quickly. In the meantime, I noticed that my kitchen counter was looking rather shabby so I stopped and began to clear the counter of all the dust and debris collecting there despite the fact that I have a once-a-week cleaning person. She never cleans the counter and I never have time to do it properly. I didn’t have time to do it properly today either but I just couldn’t stand to look at the dust anymore. I expected to be done in 5 minutes, it took 35 minutes because it is a very large counter with much clutter…I understand why she doesn’t do it, although truth be told, I was very resentful today that we pay her…
As I was going on about my household business today, cleaning, wiping down, discarding the odds and ends that have no rhyme or reason to end up on the kitchen counter, I thought about my childhood. I am currently reading J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. I am not sure how I happened upon it but reading it has allowed me a glimpse into a world that I have seen portrayed in movies or sitcoms but have never really experienced to that personal a degree. My mother was not a good housekeeper. She made no apologies for that. My parents moved to “America” in 1963 with four kids and a brother in tow in order for us to have a “better life”. I was only 8, I never really knew at that point that my life was anything but idyllic. Moving to the States was a shock that I don’t think I have ever recovered from.
Although we were not dirt poor, my parents did have to resort to boarding people, working extra hours and using their credit cards creatively in order to attain a middle class existence. We did not have a maid; we did have chores that were expected to be done in exchange for an allowance. I don’t think I appreciated that at the time, it just suddenly dawned on me this morning that my mother’s expectation that household chores would be done was not unrealistic. I remember always doing my chores and having to often do my sister’s chores to avoid the screaming and fighting that would ensue and make me feel so anxious. I remember my mother’s words (“What do I have here? Four mortgages?”) when referring to us after she found that we had not done what was expected. I hated that feeling of being a burden, she made no effort to hide it. But what I realized today is that she was not wrong in her expectations, I have been wrong in my interpretation. I have been so wrapped up in being resentful that I did not give sufficient credit to her for being willing to pay for the chores to be done. She was not exploiting us, she was simply exchanging money for work, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
My husband and I are retired now. Well, he is semi-retired but his work does not take him from home, he can do it from the comfort of our beautiful estate. He has always worked with his mind, physical labor has never been his thing. I do not fault him for that, he is generous and has never balked at paying for household or gardening help. He would rather pay for anything than have to do it himself. I knew this when I married him, I worked with him, I was familiar with the fact that here was a guy who could literally do nothing all day long but read and watch television. He is a very educated and intelligent person, he just doesn’t have ambitions or hobbies that venture into the realm of building furniture for example or learning to fix simple electrical or plumbing issues.
As I was gathering the clothes for the laundry and wiping down counters, I could see him in bed reading. I could feel myself getting annoyed because I felt oppressed while he is wonderfully relaxed. Then I dug deep into the real reasons for my resentment and can honestly say that my feelings have zero to do with him and 100 percent to do with me. I too could lie down and read my books, it is my choice not to do so. In fact, aren’t I this minute spending time writing? Tomorrow is the cleaning lady’s day. She is not great at her job but she needs the money and frankly, does a better job than I do on the floors. I could speak to her about the counters and debris but I prefer to keep the status quo.
A lot of things are going on with me right now, I think it is best to accept that I have had a tremendous catharsis today regarding my mother and that is a really good thing. I am going now to clear off at least the love seat!
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