Once Upon a Time…
My grandparents, bless their hearts, were pack rats. They both grew up during the Depression Era and therefore, found it necessary to keep each and every item that crossed their paths.
There was a cabinet in the living room that contained hundreds of those tiny bottles of alcohol served on airplanes. My grandparents were not exactly world travelers, but if Snow White and her Dwarves ever came by for a party, they could tie one on in style.
If you were to open the door that led, ostensibly, to the upstairs, you would find yourself facing a mountain of paper towel and toilet paper. It was an actual mountain. It had peaks and valleys and you would need climbing gear to actually reach the floor above.
Say you needed to use the restroom, you could absolutely find toilet paper, but say you wanted to get a hand towel to dry your hands. One day, I was in search of this very item and I opened the door to what I thought was the linen closet, but instead of linens this closet held shelf upon shelf of feminine hygiene products. I do not even want to know.
I shut the door in horror and vowed to wipe the image from my brain forever. You could find about everything you ever needed to outlast a zombie apocalypse within my grandparent’s home, but you may not find perfectly fluffed pillows.
When I was a toddler, my parents nicknamed me “The Walking Disaster” because I had a way of leaving a path of destruction in my wake. You could always tell where my little legs had taken me that day because you could follow the trail of my abandoned toys, books, and clothes like breadcrumbs.
I, of course, do not recall these events, but I have always been innately curious. I imagine that just as I went to investigate one item, another would catch my eye, and off I would go creating my pathway of chaos.
As I grew, it became clear that in addition to being a “Walking Disaster”, I was also somewhat of a klutz. I think in my excitement to discover something new, I would cease paying attention to my feet and go tumbling. I am still guilty of this, to this day. My parents enrolled me in ballet classes when I was two, in hopes of helping my coordination and balance. I only learned how to fall more gracefully.
The King and Queen of Clean
On my first vacation with my now husband, Jerome, we traveled to La Jolla, California. He planned a sunset picnic on the beach complete with wine, cheese, and chocolate covered strawberries. As we arrived at the beach, just before sunset, he asked only that I carry the blanket while he carried everything else.
“Sure,” I agreed. We began our trek through the sand to find a perfect spot. I fell behind, as my legs are shorter and walking through sand is never as easy as one might imagine. All of the sudden, Jerome noticed a flash of brown in his peripheral vision.
It was my hair flying by as I face planted after tripping over the blanket I was carrying. I spent our romantic picnic with sand in my teeth, eyebrows, and eyelashes but we laughed so hard our bellies hurt. I am always tripping or falling or knocking something over by gesticulating too wildly.
Jerome learned to clean meticulously as a child. He was not bestowed with a Fairy Godfather and learned to keep good care of things, so that he could have them for a long, long time. His dad kept the same Honda Accord he bought off the showroom floor for twenty-five years and it was as spotless on the day he sold it, as the day he bought it.
Jerome’s parents say that they raised Jerome with “champagne taste on a beer budget”. They reasoned that if they took good care of their belongings, they could splurge on life’s little luxuries like an occasional family vacation or a fancy meal.
When Jerome and I decided to “shack up”, we easily fell into a routine with our weekly household chores. When we started out, we did not have much. Our living room furniture consisted of donations from a friend’s father, which I will forever be eternally grateful, however there was a particular cushion on one of the couches that if you sat on just right, you would fall through like the couch was trying to swallow you whole.
Our bedroom furniture consisted of only our bed. Actually, it was two twin beds pushed together to form a California King, and Jerome would often fall in the crack between, landing on the box springs in the middle of the night and call out to me, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
Our dining room table was a small outdoor patio table that we covered with a tablecloth and dubbed our “bistro table”. We did not have a lot, but what we did have, we kept clean. Jerome and I were able to maintain our high level of cleanliness throughout over a decade of living together…until we had a baby.
How is it possible that such a tiny human can require so much stuff? How is it possible that such a tiny human can destroy a room in two seconds flat? I have resigned myself that keeping everything in its place is simply not possible with a toddler.
The second you put something “away”, little hands come and take it back out again. I work from home and bear witness to the toddler tornado that takes place each and every day. That said tornado can whirl through in the time it takes one very exhausted mama to go pee.
I think that Jerome was under the impression that like a Genie in a bottle or the Cat (from The Cat in the Hat), I would release Madeline each morning and set her free to tear through the house at will. This is not the case. I would diligently follow her around and pick up after her, but the second I turned my back, BOOM! It was a Madeline explosion.
I am not an evil stepmother. I am a very kind and loving mama, if I do say so myself. However, I just could not have the princess destroying the castle each day or else the king and queen would lose their minds and be forced to live in the dungeon wrapped in straight jackets.
There was only one thing to do. I had to turn Madeline into Cinderella with my magic wand…er, magic microfiber towel. I did not have to chant, “Bibbity Bobbity Boo!” The magic words appeared to be, “Would you like to help Mama?”
Madeline paused, with several toys clasped in her tiny hands, and then let them fall upon the floor unceremoniously. I held the magic microfiber towel in my hands and waved it back and forth. As if there was imaginary pixie dust gently falling upon her face.
Cindy Madeline clapped her hands with glee, grabbed the magical towel, and waited for instructions.
First, I taught Madeline how to dust furniture. I gave Madeline the job of dusting the furniture at toddler height and not easily scratched, tarnished, or broken. Does a one-year-old have the ability to efficiently dust furniture?
The answer is no, but we happen to live in a desert and every little bit helps. Next, I taught Madeline how to say, “clean up” in sign language. I had already taught her several words, including the other magical word, “please”. When I coupled “Would you like to help Mama clean up…please?” with the corresponding signs, it was like I had promised to buy Madeline a gown for the ball. She mimicked the sign “clean up” . Then, I showed her how we clean up her toys scattered upon the floor. Like she was under a spell, Cindy Madeline picked up each toy and then gave herself a round of applause. “Thank you!” I signed and scooped her up to give her true love’s kiss. “You’re welcome!” she signed before collapsing in a heap of giggles.
Too young for a list of chores and too far from the forest to enlist the help of the animals to help her, Cindy Madeline cleans the castle with help from her beautiful and wise Queen Mama. Unfortunately, Queen Mama is not much of songstress, so that is where Beyoncé and Adele come in. I crank the music and we dance as we sweep and mop the palace floors.
Not wanting to ruin her ball gown, Cindy Madeline wears nothing but a diaper and one glass slipper (otherwise known as Mama’s silver ballet flat). Cindy Madeline is quite skilled at both dusting and picking up toys. In fact, she has a keen eye for finding minuscule particles in need of being thrown away, like a strand of Queen Mama’s hair or a piece of lint.
One day, it was the castle dog; Gracie, who demolished a toy, leaving tufts of cotton splayed all over the living room. Sweet Cindy Madeline obediently, without being asked, picked up each tuft and deposited it in the trash. Queen Mama was eternally grateful as she was entranced by the boys and girls on the other side of her mirror…er, laptop computer.
Another day, on a visit to town, it was a used cigarette butt that Cindy Madeline thoughtfully picked up from the ground and handed to Queen Mama. The act was appreciated, but Cindy Madeline found herself showered in magical antibacterial lotion before receiving her customary hug.
Cindy Madeline resides her clean castle to this day. Someday, when she is much, much older, she may take a carriage ride to another castle and meet a handsome prince. Let us hope that he is well groomed, intelligent, funny, a great dancer and above all…clean.