There is nothing as permanent as chores. When I was growing up, you could count on them come rain, come shine, come sleet, come snow. Well, we did not get snow where I grew up. Saturday morning chores were something you could count on just like death and taxes. They were a staple in my home growing up. Standards were high and guidelines strict. No cutting corners. You began at the top; dusting what was on the walls, then working your way down to the furniture and then to the floors. At one time or another, I tried to color outside the lines. This was highly frowned upon by the curators of my home.
Dusting was an art form and I quickly learned that my mother had her own style of art. She was a realist, liked it clean, and wanted no interpretation as to whether or not the room had been dusted and vacuumed. If you wanted to try a different style, say, an impressionistic style of cleaning; this would be best used when the lighting in the room was darker; creating an illusion that you had indeed dusted and vacuumed the living room. Unfortunately, chores were to be completed in the morning, therefore removing the option of an impressionistic approach that you had cleaned. Subconsciously, I wanted the room clean, which would make me a surrealist cleaner. I had visions of clean rooms that had been meticulously attended to without actually having to extend myself into the rooms. We can all dream, can’t we?
Performance Art. This art form was invoked at times to dull the pain of the obvious task at hand. The end result was what the patron was asking for, but it was the process that was different. Performances might include music from a radio station or a vinyl record album. One of my all-time favorites is the soundtrack from South Pacific. As I was singing, “I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair,” my dancing feet would pick up the pace for a diligent yet detailed production. Sometimes the performance was for only myself and other times it was for the pedestrians, or family members, walking through the room. This could be highly satisfying if the response was positive and encouraging.
Cleaning style was one thing, but the specific act of dusting was another ball of wax. Dusting calls for multiple tools. The drum table, for example, called for a specific order. There was the Stiffel drum shade that topped the brushed brass lamp that was the crowning glory, front and center. Let’s not forget the antique glass ducks, clock, and glass bowls All very beautiful and needing attention. Let’s not forget the legs to this glorious table. Brass lamps do not get dusted with furniture polish and anything with glass must be attended to with glass cleaner! Please, please, follow protocol.
After the dusting had been completed, the vacuum cleaner was plugged in and ready to go. This was only done after everything else had been cleaned. Remember, you start at the top and work your way down to the floors. Ahhhh, the vacuum. It weighed a ton, at least to me, and you were always, and I mean always supposed to take your time and cover every bit of flooring; except under the organ. If you were caught slinging that vacuum forward and backward with great gusto in the effort to quickly complete your chore, well, let’s just say, do not get caught.
With all of the life skills I learned growing up, and there were many, I am thankful. Hindsight is always 20/20 and there is no greater gift that we can give our children than the gift or responsibility. As one of our children went off to college and was living in co-op housing, a requirement of living there was to help with chores; kitchen, bathroom, cleaning common areas, etc. After a short period of time, she informed her father and I, with a bit of shock, that there were some residents who had no idea how to clean a bathroom or the kitchen and dining area. (This is where the investments pay off!) She tells me that this is ridiculous!
And to this I say, bingo.