There is something ingrained in the genetic makeup of my mother’s side of the family that compels the women to clean. (I’m not trying to open a debate of gender stereotypes, so put down your pitchforks.)
We are just a tidy bunch. It goes beyond the standard, “Stay out of the living room! It’s for guests and special occasions only” kind of stuff.
In my family, not only is the living room generally off limits — though I will admit my own mother has become lax over the years as more and more grandchildren have been tempted to explore — but usually you can see the lines vacuumed into the carpet, like a precision cut on a Major League Baseball outfield.
Vacuuming is not a chore in my family, it is a way of life. We like clean floors.
Life got ya down? Clean your floors. Bad day at work? Clean the floors. Feeling overwhelmed? Pull out the vacuum. Need to procrastinate? Never hurts to grab a mop. And when it’s all said and done, you feel better. Well, in my family we feel better and you either agree or think we’re odd. Either way you’re right.
I remember very clearly walking home from grammar school and turning the corner onto my street only to hear the Pointer Sisters blasting from Mom’s stereo. From halfway down the block I knew exactly what she was up to. She was vacuuming. (Singing at the top of her lungs too, but the point is she was doing the floors.)
In our otherwise spotless house, the vacuum was the one thing that was always permitted to stay out. Everything had a place. The vacuum’s just happened to be in the middle of the family room. Regular visitors to the house grew accustomed to stepping over the hose and we knew it was somebody important if the vacuum got put away.
My uncle once had a T-shirt made for my Mom that read: Olympic Vacuum Team. She would have medalled for sure.
I never really understood why the vacuum was always out. It was just how it was.
Then I had kids. Dirty, mucky, sticky, germ-toting little grubby-mitted kids.
It doesn’t matter how hard I try to keep the floors clean, the minute I feel good about them, a kid walks through the house with a handful of dirty rocks from the garden or a sprinkle donut or worse — something with glitter on it — and there goes my high.
After breakfast, if I’m lucky, I only have to vacuum. I’m rarely lucky. Typically it’s a three-step process that involves crawling around under the table to pick up soggy little chunks of half-chewed things and then vacuuming and then mopping. Lunch is more of the same and by dinner I’m so tired that I quite often surround my youngest in towels just to give myself a break.
UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families conducted a nine-year research project and found that clutter has a profound affect on mood and self-esteem and that it affects the level of cortisol in women more so than men. So I guess the women of my family come by it honestly.
I apologize, Mom, for not understanding before. I do now.
So if you come over, odds are my house will be tidy. Just mind the vacuum on the floor.