(First of all, I promise not to mention Michael Jackson.
It’s Saturday, so that means I’ve spent most of the morning cleaning – sinks, shower, toilet, stove, fridge, vacuuming, dusting, etc. etc. Unlike many of our fellow expats we’ve never had a cleaner. Not that I’m against it – it’s great for helping the under-employed, and much of the money ends up in the developing world where its sorely needed; it’s just that I don’t think a cleaner could ever do the job to the standard I myself do. And more importantly, I enjoy cleaning. So why should I pay someone else to do something that is personally fulfilling when I do it myself? It has taken awhile but thankfully Renata no longer feels guilty for the fact that I clean things habitually. It’s just part of who I am and she accepts it.
I can remember a summer in Brazil when both my parents were working full-time and I and two of my brothers were left to our own devices at home. Actually, because it is the Southern hemisphere, it was winter; in any case, we were having our three-month “summer” holiday from school. Most of the guys from our neighborhood soccer team were away, so with not much else to do I was indulging myself and keeping myself busy by giving the household a daily scrub.
My brothers hated me. Not the let’s-kill-him-no-I-have-a-better-idea-let’s-throw-him-in-a-pit-and-sell-him-into-Egypt kind of hatred; more the this-idiot-brother-of-ours-is-driving-us-crazy-and-making-us-look-bad kind of hatred. They made snide comments and were generally unhelpful. They insinuated to my parents that I was doing it just to make a good impression. Naturally, this line of thought was completely unfathomable to me. What was wrong with cleaning? It was a perfectly enjoyable pass-time; something everyone could take pleasure in if they just got the knack for it. Why won’t you just join me and see how fun it is?
When we got married Renata and I were pretty poor. We didn’t have anything to put our clothes into so we made short stacks of sturdy cardboard boxes in our bedroom to act as a chest of drawers. Night after night I would insist that Renata get out of bed again to take her clothes off the floor – where she had deposited them – and put them, folded, into our box contraption. She thought I was nuts. Putting the clothes into a stack of supermarket cardboard boxes is “cleaning up”?
I guess I’ve lightened up a bit. We both throw our clothes on the floor at night now, and I trample on them when I get up for a pee.
But secretly it gives me huge amounts of satisfaction that one of my four daughters has turned out to be a natural cleaner / organizer. I don’t mind at all that the other three have followed their mother into perdition; Sarah is my flag, my banner, my guarantee that at least a remnant of the next generation of Adans will live snugly in a properly vacuumed and dusted abode.
I can rest in peace.