Writer knows her cleaning limits

A look at life in the Lower Valley

September is the month that strikes dread into every child’s heart. For

parents it is a mixed blessing, the joy of having your kids back in school

and the dread of having to face hours of homework every night. I should

have thrown myself a party. This September marked the first time both my

children were in school full time.

My grandmother Alice always said that she cried when her first child

went to kindergarten. From that day forward, she only cried when school

got out. I understand that feeling because for the first time in almost ten years,

I am not pregnant or parenting a child full time.

I have all of these wonderful plans, clean the whole house,

refinish furniture. Heck, with seven hours a day to myself, I should be able to

cure cancer or at least lower my golf score. Sadly, it is not to be. I have to face

the truth, after almost ten years of chasing kids “24-7,” I am at least

twenty years behind in cleaning the house. Not that I am any good at it. I am

the only person I know who can spend all day cleaning one bathroom and it

still looks dirty after I am done.

My mother bestowed many gifts on me, nice legs, low blood

pressure, and the inability to clean. We try, yes we do; but, unless we hire a

professional, we are doomed to failure. My mother has always had a great

attitude about a clean home. The mess we lived in growing up never seemed to

bother her. You would never catch her covertly picking up when

someone popped in unexpectedly.

When she was raising six kids, four of them boys, she had a

house that you could clean with a fire hose. Everything was the color of dirt.

Brown wool carpet, brown sofa. Cast iron furniture with melmac

tops. While other people had carpet runners and “no touch” living rooms that

you only visited when someone died. We jumped on the sofa and ate cereal

in front of the TV. You could throw a bowling ball in that house and not

hurt a thing. I need that kind of house.

The sad thing is, because I am so inept at cleaning, my ever lovin’

husband in convinced that I am spending all of my “child free” time eating

bon bons and watching Oprah. Shows what he knows, Oprah comes on

after the kids come home. No it’s not from lack of trying; it is from lack of


I know women who just step into the room and it looks cleaner.

They have homes that are spotless. No toys in the tub unless they are in some

adorably cute little net. No dirty windows; it’s as if their kids don’t have

hands. Magazines neatly arranged in a fan, not newspapers strewn around like

we are potty training a puppy. It is as if they have a “dirt be gone” force

field around them. No germ would ever dare to mess with these super

clean woman. They make me feel so incompetent.

I don’t know why. After thirty-nine years of slobbery, I shouldn’t care

anymore. I should embrace my filth, make it mine. Own it. Take pride in the

dirty sink, the unwashed dishes, the unfolded clothes. But again, I am

my mother’s daughter. I thought she didn’t care about her house. When all of

us kids grew up and moved out, Mom moved too. She bought a sunny

little condo. She painted it white. The carpet is white. Everywhere you look

are delicate little “no touch”

knickknacks. She has a cleaning woman whom she adores. Only twelve more years …

I can’t wait.

Kate Russell lives in between Carnation and Duvall.

You can reach her at her new

e-mail address Katemo1@msn.com