1960 – Phoenix, Arizona
I don’t think any child really understands the value of learning to clean properly, but the power struggles my mother and I had over ‘doing it right’ have helped me to appreciate what constitutes a well kept home.
Mom posted lists in every room that we had to check off before we could go outside. They included minutiae as meaningless as wiping down the space between the toilet seat and the tank, sanitizing our closet floors (they didn’t carpet the closets then) and checking to make sure the sheets on the bed had hospital corners. Even as those lists had to be adhered to and checked off every day in the summer, at the very same time, we had several “junk” drawers in our home that had so much crammed in that they couldn’t even be closed all the way. The oven only got easy-offf’d when we had no room to put a casserole inside and I remember using a putty knife and a hair dryer to loosen dried, melted ice cream when the freezer needed defrosting. But those were “‘Mom jobs” when I was little and, as I said, when Mom did clean, she didn’t fool around.
Mom had some kind of vacuuming fetish. On one occasion, when I was to clean my room, I did, what I thought, was an adequate job. After checking everything off the “bedroom list”, I reported for permission to go to Kathy’s house. Without even looking up from the book she was reading, she said, “You didn’t vacuum well enough. Go do it again.” I protested a little and then gave up and dragged the vacuum out again. (Incidentally, summer time vacuuming in Phoenix was hard work for a kid. Swamp coolers saturated the cotton fiber carpets with enough moisture that it was a chore for a full-grown man.) Anyhow, when I finished this time, I felt pretty sure it would pass muster, but I was wrong. “Do it again.”
This time, I gave in and pulled the bed out where I found the troll doll the dog had been chewing on. I used the nozzle to edge the wall behind my desk and I pulled out my dresser. Surprise! I found a five-dollar bill! This time, when I returned to ask if I could go out, I told Mom what I had turned up. She looked up and said, “That’s how I knew you hadn’t done a good job. I borrowed that from the bank on your desk last week when the paper boy came.”
I tried that trick on my kids. It worked on them too.