I think Gigi was raised under the premise that ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’. Our house was always immaculate when we were growing up. Not a single couch cushion out of place, not a piece of hair in the hairbrushes, all hand-washed dishes put away immediately after every meal. I don’t know how she did it, but everything was always perfect.
Sometimes I wonder how it is that I never sent her to the looney bin, and here’s why…
When the Editor and I were little little, we lived in an apartment. The “backyard” was the size of a postage stamp with a little patch of dirt. One of our favorite things to do was dig a hole, insert a hose into the hole, and wait for the dirt to turn into mud. We would then wade into the mud and make mud pies to throw at the back side of the apartment. We were so filthy at the end of this that we had to be stripped down and immediately thrown into the bathtub. The bathtub had to be drained and refilled several times before the swamp creature effect started to wash away. (I was too little at the time to notice, but I am sure the tub had to be scrubbed with quite a bit of elbow grease to get rid of the grime we left behind.)
One time Paty and I decided that we were going to play restaurant. (I do not know why the Editor was not with us on this one—she was usually my best partner in grime.) In my little mind, it seemed that the best thing to use to play restaurant was the discarded food containers and boxes from our houses. The best place to find these items, without anyone getting upset that we were using them, was in the trash can. I didn’t think about the grossness of the situation or the filth or any of the other disgustingness that went along with this, but I’m here to tell you that playing restaurant with those things—empty ice cream cartons, empty coke bottles, empty mac n’ cheese boxes—now that was great fun! This kept us busy for hours, days, weeks even—until Gigi caught onto what we were doing. And that cleanliness gene she inherited kicked in and put the kibosh on our good times. I guess she was so busy being next to godliness that she didn’t know that one parent’s trash is another kid’s treasure.
Our aunt was a sewer (as in seamstress, not as in sewage). She could whip up anything on her sewing machine. (Gigi could too, but Gigi had little girls constantly underfoot which wasn’t always the best thing for sewing.) I don’t know why but one time our aunt made a bunch of little stuffed animals. I don’t recall all the specific kinds she made, but I do remember little wedge-shaped chicks. They were very cute, and as it turned out, a lot of fun. Our aunt made us the lucky recipients of a ton of these little animals. Instead of letting these toys go to waste by letting them sit prettily on a shelf or our beds, we made a game with them, appropriately named ‘Chickie Mess’. The Ed would sit on a twin bed on one side of the room, I would sit on the twin bed on the other side of the room. The goal of the game was to get ALL of the chickies (and other various animals) onto the bed of the other sister. As you can imagine, this was a LOT of fun—chickies flying through the air, little girls laughing and screaming and jumping on the beds. Now, for some strange reason, Gigi did not like this game. We could hear her coming (how, with all the racket going on in the thick of the game, I do not know) by the sound of her slippers, and her usually soft voice booming, “Girls!” And, just as she’d open the door, we’d stuff the chickies into the crack between the bed and the wall, and look up at her in the door way, saying (all wide eyed and innocent), “What, Mom?” (As if she didn’t know what we were doing.) I guess Chickie Mess was just too much of a mess for Gigi. One day we went to go play it and mysteriously, the chickies (and friends) were missing. Hmmmm….
Our house was next door to Paty’s house. The front corner of our garage was directly across from the front corner of her front porch. We spent many hours, standing there, in between the houses, hatching plans, chatting, scheming, and for some reason, pulling the berries off of a holly-like bush at that corner of our garage, and writing on the side wall of the garage. It wasn’t easy to do—the wall was stucco. It wasn’t particularly fun, either. I have no idea why we did it—I guess it was just something to do with our hands while we stood there scheduling our free time. This must have gone on for months. Finally one day either the Norwegian or Gigi saw the graffiti and that was the end of that. They sent me and the Ed out to clean it up. They didn’t say how or with what, but nevertheless, it was our responsibility to clean up our mess. So, obediently we went out to do it, but didn’t exactly know how to accomplish it. Luckily for us, Paty came over to offer her wisdom. She told us that mud is very cleansing. And so, being the resourceful girls that we were, we got a bucket and a shovel and the hose…and we gave the side of the house a very thorough facial (not unlike what we did to the apartment wall). Now, I don’t know if Gigi saw what we were doing and sent the Norwegian out, or if the Norwegian just came out himself to check on our progress, but the bottom line was that they were not happy with our choice of cleaning methods. To make matters worse, the “authority” on the cleansing mud idea vanished when the Norwegian rounded the corner. (Paty often did that. She was very good with selling her views and ideas to us, but not so much with the parental units.) So, the Norwegian decided that we had to stand there and watch him do the job right. He got a bucket and some kind of soap and a scrub brush. (Well, sure, anyone could clean it THAT way!) Needless to say, after that experience, our tagging days were over.
I guess sometime during my second year of college the cleanliness gene woke up in me. I realized that Gigi might have been onto something all those years. I began to appreciate the benefits of a clean living area. I became a clean freak. So much so that when the Editor and I lived together my senior year of college, we would clean our townhouse into the wee hours of the morning, probably to the major irritation of our shared-wall neighbor. He probably didn’t care that we were cleaning, but that we would sing “Cleanliness is next to godliness that’s why we’re cleaning at 2 in the morning” to the tune of “Memories” in a super high voice at the top of our lungs. I would clean and clean and clean until not a speck of dirt dared to show its ugly little face in my house.
And that lasted…until I became a mother. It’s not that I don’t still want to have a clean house, but the hours in my day get swallowed up by other things (mostly by wanting to spend time playing with the girls, rather than cleaning) and I guess that deep down, I have to stay true to my roots—roots that go deep down into the (not so clean) dirt!
Posted by The Editor for Busy Body.