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SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts -Today, I left the house without making my bed. This may not sound like a big deal, but for me it was the ultimate act of rebellion and bravery. My mother warned me years ago that such abhorrent behavior could result in consequences of epic proportion; like what if unexpected company shows up and thinks I’m a slob? Or, suppose members of the Bed Patrol knock on my door demanding a bed check, and news of my reprehensible housekeeping ends up as headlines?
In the twenty years I lived at home I can’t recall ever seeing my parent’s bed unmade. I’m convinced they slept on the floor.
Dishes never touched the bottom of our kitchen sink. My mother carried them from the table directly to the faucet, washed, dried and put them away instantly. On rare occasion a dish might find itself drying on the dish rack overnight, but that was only if someone other than my mother put it there and, trust me, they heard about it in the morning.
I grew up knowing that the beautiful Lenox dishes in our china cabinet were only for company; people we hardly knew and saw just a few times a year. These acquaintances also enjoyed sterling silverware, fine linen table clothes and cut crystal goblets. Libby jelly glasses, chipped Melmac dishes and mismatched silverware were what my mother used daily for those she dearly loved.
Two decorative towels hung on our bathroom towel rack at all times. We were forbidden to use them and instructed to use the faded, frayed ones that sometimes doubled as dust rags. The pretty ones were, once again, for company. I suspect that if I used them, I would have choked on the accumulated dust from so many years of hanging there, untouched.
Don’t get me wrong, my mother was a sensational homemaker. She was always cleaning something. My friends had colorful porcelain ginger jars, and attractive flower arrangements artistically placed on their bathroom counters. Our bathroom sink was adorned with a can of Ajax cleanser and a sponge because my mother saw fit to wash the sink several times throughout each day.
In our basement was a huge professional steam iron like one you might see in the back room of your local cleaners. It sat atop the pool table that came with the house because the last owners didn’t know how to get it out. My mother would dip my father’s pants into heavy liquid starch. Then put them into the dryer. When they were dry she sprinkled them with water, laid them on the lower half of the huge flat iron and smoothed out the pant legs. She then pulled the upper half of the iron down, applied body pressure, and watched the steam escape. When it stopped steaming she lifted the upper half of the iron and the pants emerged looking and feeling like two slabs of drywall, able to stand, unassisted. I have no idea why my father bought this monstrosity for my mother, but years later I decided it was nearly as romantic as the toaster my ex-husband brought me for our 10th anniversary.
We had a weekly cleaning woman. Every Wednesday before Lulu came, my mother thoroughly cleaned the house so Lulu wouldn’t think she was a slob.
Lulu was loyal, and conscientious, but she was eleven donuts short of a dozen. One day she complained she didn’t like Daylight Savings Time because it made her tired. We explained that her body would adjust in a few days. Then she added, “The part I hate most is having to get up at 2:00 AM to set my clock ahead or back, like the newsman says I should.”
The day is nearly over and neither surprise company nor the Bed Patrol have rung my doorbell. It appears that my willingness to gamble has paid off. And to think that rather than take such a chance my poor mother slept on the floor.