I hope you can’t access the internet in Heaven because I managed to keep it a secret from my father that I was hiring someone to come in and clean the house. Actually, it took me years, both financially and philosophically, to get there myself. Someone else clean up your mess? Never. But about the time that I found myself working 50 hours a week with two youngsters and a house full of cats, chinchillas, guinea pigs, even some mice Dan was secretly raising in his closet, it all got to be too much and I caved. I was already putting 80% of my income towards child care; why not toss in the remainder to have someone vacuum the place?
I always told myself that as soon as the kids were mostly gone and life quieted down I would go back to doing my own cleaning and it seems like I should be able to do that now. But it’s just gotten worse. The kids are only "mostly gone" and they make twice as much mess as before flying through here with musical instruments, laundry and giant appetites on the weekends . And Millie the guinea pig is about 18 and shows no signs of giving up life on this earth so she’s still throwing pine shavings everywhere. When the dust settles on Mondays the place needs to be torched from the ground up.
When Rich and I were first getting to know one another one of the things that was attractive about him was that he actually lived in a grown-up home, all neat and tidy, with a mowed lawn and a bathroom where a girl could feel safe from disease. Turns out he’s a true fisherman and spends a lot of time thinking about the right bait.
We sold his place and turned my place into our place with an addition and now it’s been two years since he moved in here. He still claims to not know where we keep the vacuum which is the front hall closet right next to his golf shoes. He can’t empty the dishwasher because he doesn’t know where forks go. He has a PhD and earns his living doing statistical research but changing light bulbs is too high tech. Okay, I’m exaggerating but the point is he has significantly dummied up when it comes to housekeeping. So, now, for the first time ever I’m living in a house where roles are traditionally defined: he’s the bread winner and I keep the house. And work because I’m not willing to give up my professional life. And manage the kids and pets. And cook. So I still need need someone to help with the cleaning.
Today Ping comes. Ping is the latest in a series of housekeeping helpers. Earlier models have included Cleans With Dirt, Drive-By Cleaners, I Broke Your Waterford Crystal but Forgot to Tell You and the What’s Yours Is Mine Cleaning Service. All of these earlier models came highly recommended by friends and were stellar for at least the first two weeks. (When I called the friends back later to grouse they had all already moved on to new cleaners.) The problem is I’m at their mercy. I apparently need them more than they need me so we start off with an imbalance of power. I have built-in guilt about someone else cleaning up my mess so I’m afraid to ask them directly to clean certain things, mainly the bathroom, and this must be a room that along with windows they don’t do. I’m embarrassed that I’ve failed to bring my children up to make their beds or pick up their clothes so I clean their rooms before the cleaning people get here.
But today Ping is coming. Ping is great. She’s wonderful. For starters she’s intelligent. She has a work ethic I can relate to. She has common sense. She’s quiet and calm and nice. She has initiative. Her strength is laundry and she knows that you separate darks from lights and certain things don’t go in the dryer and she irons the wrinkles out of stuff. She even knows whose laundry is whose for the most part, although it’s confusing because Abby and Dan both help themselves to Rich’s boxer shorts and socks when they come for a visit. At the end of the day it’s nice to find a neat little pile of your favorite clothing folded on the bed.
THE FUNNY PART: A couple months ago when it was extremely cold out- below zero- Rich took a long hot shower and then stuffed the giant (irregular) Ralph Lauren bathsheet down the clothes chute. This is a 1950s Cape Cod and the chute runs between the interior and exterior outside wall of the house two floors down to the laundry tub. Well, between the hot moisture in the bathroom and the freezing cold metal of the laundry chute the towel went about 5 feet down before it came to a screeching halt, frozen between floors. Since the linen closet was conveniently close and Dr. Rocket Science had recently purchased a dozen of these giant irregular bath sheets at Sam’s Club he thought stuffing another one down might break the log jam. And another. And so forth. And then he went and got a garden rake from the garage and starting using that like a battering ram. That noise was enough to wake the dead so I ran from my office to see what was going on and there he was, buck naked, banging this rake down the clothes chute. And even as I figured out what was going on and started to screech, "stop that!" he snatched another towel and jammed that down too. "Stop! STOP!" Okay, so then he took a break to put on some clothes and rethink the situation and I left muttering that this was a problem that would remedy itself at least come Spring. A little while later I heard a very odd hum and went to investigate only to find that he had gotten an extension cord and had the hair dryer hanging down inside the clothes chute going full blast. This looked like a Darwin Award waiting to happen.
Forty dollars worth of electricity later the towels all slid slowly out into the laundry tub. The next morning Ping came and since she has a reasonable idea of how much laundry we go through she came up from the basement looking quietly puzzled and said, "Wha hoppin?" I said, "Well, Ping, Rich threw a wet towel down the chute and…" and Ping gently held up her hand and said, "You tell huban he work. Ping do laundry." See how smart she is? And no, you can’t have her number.