Until a couple of years ago, I was really a housewife. We bought this big (!) old house full of nooks, crannies, uneven boards and sketchy plumbing, missing trim molding at floor level that attracts and retains dirt like nobody’s business, and a kitchen improbably covered with some sort of textured paint with 1/4-inch craters that suck up every molecule of grease and tomato sauce in the state of Michigan.
This high maintenance living space was purchased on the basis that I would still do some work at home, but that I would mostly be taking care of the kids, keeping the house clean, planning meals, paying bills, being a room parent, driving to soccer practice, and doing all of the things that many stay at home parents do. I had been quite a crafter/fixer-upper type for years, and so it seemed as if, even with only one salary, I could use my talents and interest (along with double-sided tape and spray paint) to keep us well decorated and in good repair. In case the burden might not be sufficient to satisfy my Jewish/Catholic guilt issues, I immediately went out and adopted a cat, two dogs, and another cat (who had kittens before we could get her spayed), and began my life as a stay-at-home mom.
Things changed, as they often do. One kid grew up and graduated, the other one got older and more independent, and I discovered that I really, really loved cooking and food and writing about cooking and food, and all of that stuff that I do here all the time. I started working again, a little law, a little political communications work, and I got seriously involved in various community relations issues and crusades. My housewifing time diminished drastically, and while we always eat well (Duh) no one who knows me would suggest that my motto is “cleanliness is next to Godliness.” I have been known, in idle moments, to run the vacuum cleaner or dust the furniture, but it’s been a long, long time since there was any refrigerator moving, rug beating, serious cleaning done around here. My theory is that you either have to do this kind of work yourself or pay someone else to do it, and we don’t.
Today the jig is up, the other shoe has fallen, the eagle has landed..I have to clean the house. The downstairs, anyway. I have to clean in a way that involves buckets and brushes and steel wool and ladders and all manner of horrible and un-fun accessories. I can’t put it off, and I could tell myself that this kind of labor is beneath my regal and artistic self, but then I’ll have to suffer the embarrassment of having a dirty house to show someone who really deserves to see it at it’s best. Besides, when Child Protective Services finally get around to coming to save Sam from living in a house with a greasy range hood and an unpainted porch, I’ll have to do this anyway to regain custody. Might as well just get it done.
One of the things I can’t do is let myself get distracted by planning or cooking a “real” dinner. It’s fairly easy for me to convince myself that it’s far more important to have layers of flavor in a sauce than it is to have the white squares in my checkerboard flooring really white. Rob is gone, and Sam and I will have grilled cheese a la moda panini (because he likes them smushed and I like to make him happy) along with good old cream of tomato soup. I’ll make two sandwiches on crusty bread with slices of sharp, Vermont cheddar. Mine will be sprayed with a coating of “Pam,” and, because Sam is 12 and has the metabolism of a crack-addicted Rhesus monkey, I’ll brush a little melted butter on the outside of his. We are both dippers, and will experience the sheer bliss that comes from dipping a crisp, cheese-y sandwich into a scalding mug of cream of tomato soup.
In the mean time, until my dinner break, I am cleaning and cleaning and cleaning and swearing and slipping on dirty water and thinking that Creative Persons such as myself should really have “people” to do this kind of thing for them. (I’m told that Creative Persons who actually earn money sometimes do). This cleaning is far too serious and urgent for me to allow myself to engage in the “15 on 15 off” rotation which I sometimes use to get myself through loathsome tasks; the basic rule of that game is that you do The Awful Thing for 15 minutes, then do something else (like read) for 15 minutes, and so on, until the Awful Thing is done. Today, I just don’t have the extra 15 minuteses.
What I do have, is music. I made a Cleaning Playlist, with the main criteria for selections being that they fit the mood of the task (pissed) and that they were in no way lovely, lyrical or otherwise dream-inducing. I need to move fast and scrub hard. I recommend this playlist; I’m already on my second time through today. Since I have nothing interesting to say about food (again today) it is my little gift to you. I do not want to hear about how you don’t like country, you don’t like hip hop, you don’t like showtunes…make your own playlist and leave out the stuff you don’t like. Otherwise, you may grow up to be grumpy, like me.
- “Backyard Dogs,” Baddest Ruffest
- “Gone, Gone, Gone” Robert Plant & Alison Kraus
- “Yes We Can” will i. am and others
- “Bread and Butter,” Newbeats
- “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” Stevie Wonder
- “My Doorbell,” The White Stripes
- “Aphrodisiac,” Bow Wow Wow
- “Long Time Gone,” Dixie Chicks
- “I Want You Back,” Jackson Five
- “Pon de Replay,” Rihanna
- “Cherry, Cherry,” Neil Diamond
- “Hot N Cold,” Katy Perry
- “La Vie Boheme,” from the Soundtrack of “Rent”
- “Wind it Up,” Gwen Stefani
- “Crocodile Rock,” Elton John
- “Suddenly I See,” K.T. Tunstall
- “Love Today,” Mika
- “Drunken Lullabies,” Flogging Molly
- “Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy,” Garth Brooks & Chris Ledoux
- “Just Dance,” Lady GaGa
- “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” Dropkick Murphys
- Chattahoochie,” Alan Jackson
- “Flathead,” The Fratellis
- “Do You Love Me,” Countours
- “What is Love,” Haddaway
- “Reilly’s Daughter,” The Clancy Brothers
- “And She Was,” Talking Heads
- “Finnegan’s Wake,” Dropkick Murphys
- “Zorba the Greek,” Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
- “Mahna, Mahna,” Cake
- “Cobrastyle,” Teddybears
- “The Hoppity Song,” John Ondrasik
- “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength,” Lorrie Morgan
- “Hollaback Girl,” Gwen Stefani
- “Just a Girl,” No Doubt
- “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” Beyonce
- “Queen of Hearts,” Juice Newton
- “Girlfriend,” Avril Lavigne
- “Viva la Vida,” Coldplay
- “Short Skirt/Long Jacket,” Cake
- “Hold on Tight,” E.L.O.
- “Shake, Rattle & Roll,” Bill Haley & His Comets
- “So What,” Pink
- “You Never Can Tell,” Chuck Berry
- “HongKong Garden,” Siouxsie & The Banshees