Saturday, July 25, 2009
I ran by a house last night and almost tripped over a Christmas tree. Despite tinsel and a few Styrofoam balls, the tree showed its age -- the last six months had not been kind.
Though not the best housekeeper in Altadena, a dead tree, or any other decaying body, would have caught my eye by April at the latest.
My mother never taught her kids the finer points of housecleaning, believing our time should be spent on education and in pursuit of a stable profession. She dearly hoped the muse of dentistry would touch one of us on the shoulder. Or orthodontia – why not reach for the stars? Can’t blame her. I had an intimate relationship with the reclining chair and nitrous oxide as early as 10 years old. Poor Mum, she must have justified the expense as part of my apprenticeship.
Anyway, back to housecleaning, I don’t like it, but I do it. Usually with some sort of bribe involved – Snickers, for example.
I hired someone to clean on a weekly basis when I broke my leg back in 2006. This arrangement worked out ok for a couple of months. E would (sort of) vacuum and dust and polish and (definitely) gossip for four hours each Saturday. I learned she was divorced, remarried, born again, and that her three grandkids lived with her in a motel -- two angry boys who were in some sort of juvenile-psychiatric program, and one girl.
Once ambulatory, I kept her on , partly because E needed the money, but mostly because of her granddaughter. Alizza was 11 years old. She did homework at my kitchen table, then went outside to sketch my dog. I’d take her to the park and she’d tell me stories about life with her brothers. I didn’t want to get involved, so I worried in an uninvolved sort of way. “Alizza,” I’d tell her. “Your brothers shouldn’t push you off your bike.” Or “Alizza, your brothers shouldn’t hit you. Tell your father [he lived in another state, with a new and improved family]. And if that still doesn’t work, I’ll tell someone.”
Back from the park, we’d find E on the phone, or at a nearby garage sale. E now spent the four hours on Saturday in a variety of pursuits, none of which involved cleaning my house. So I started thinking of the weekly payments as a donation to Alizza.
This could have stretched on for a long time, and my worry might have morphed from uninvolved to involved. Who knows? But a few months later Alizza went to live with her father.
This bit of history nags at me, as one of many things I’ve left undone or could have done better.