My mom is the Chuck Norris of clean. Two completely random and separate interactions with my dear sisters reminded me of the ultra-shiny-hand-washed-hung-dry-neatly-pressed-streak-free bond we share. In a recent conversation about Santa’s reindeer with my sister, Kim, (this is not even close to being in the top 100 of strange conversations we have had) we discovered that we both grew up feeling sorry for the reindeer Comet. We were operating under the assumption that all the other reindeer had been given cool names and he was named after an ordinary household cleanser. Neither could relate a fanciful flying reindeer to a spectacular celestial light streaking through the night sky. We both, however, could relate to the extraordinary things Mom could do with an ordinary household cleanser. A few days following our reindeer conversation, my younger sister, Emily, posted this Facebook status:
It seemed fitting that I should pay homage to the pint-sized woman who can scrub an entire house from top to bottom, do seven loads of laundry (a load consists of washed dried folded/hung/pressed and put away) and put a streak-free shine on Mr. Clean’s bald head all before his feet hit the floor in the morning. Lessons we have learned from Mother Judy:
1. “A little bit of sprayin’ and a whole lot of wipin’” Mom’s motto she applied to little hands trying to be helpers and then later to big hands just doing a half-assed job on assigned chores. Pledge furniture polish was the easiest to overuse, but the phrase was also regularly applied to Windex, SoftScrub, shoe polish, Spot Shot, and a variety of multipurpose cleaners. Approximately 99.9% (see addendum below) of all household cleaning chores carried out by her offspring were subsequently deemed “pretty good” and then totally redone by the Queen of Clean.
2. Clean with the spirit of a ninja warrior. All members of our family have been subjected to the svelte ways of Mom in motion. While enjoying an ice-cold beverage, one must only lose physical/visual contact with the glass for a split second for her to strike. In the time required to blink, the glass has been dumped, rinsed, and tucked into the dishwasher. The ninja technique also is applied to bowls of cereal, half-eaten sandwiches, partially read newspapers and unmade beds left unattended for early morning trips to the bathroom.
3. Mom and a toothbrush are a force to be reckoned with. Many tough jobs have been tackled by mom and a toothbrush. Grout, tiles, floors, stoves, etc. have been subjected to her fury against the grime. However, one cannot fully grasp the mightiness of Mom welding this seemingly harmless tool, except those of us who have stood before her having failed the “oral hygiene inspection”. The kind, docile creature transforms into a self-appointed Cavity Creep assassin. Having to endure a tooth-brushing session at the hands of this well-meaning fanatic is comparable to what I imagine it would be like to have your mouth (teeth, gums, and tongue) scrubbed thoroughly with a Brillo-pad.
4. A dusty car might as well be a rusty car. My car is an extension of my family’s hectic life and usually contains all of or a combination of the following: basketballs, socks, sweatshirts, electronics, snacks, lip gloss, bottled water, crumbs, textbooks, book bags, golf clubs, work stuff, and hair and makeup accessories. My mom’s car contains floor mats and a garage door opener. Not only is the inside of her car in showroom condition, but should a layer of dust accumulate on the outside of the car, she takes the time to “dust” the body of the vehicle. Riding in my car makes my mom nervous.
5. If it cannot be cleaned, it must be destroyed. The large ranch-style home we lived in when my little sister Emily was born had very nice dark brown carpeting. Although the carpeting had been recently installed by the previous owners of the house and was in tip-top shape, it was a source of loathing for Mom. While most people would appreciate a floor covering that didn’t readily show dirt, this trait was an unforgivable flaw in her eyes. No amount of cleaning, scrubbing, or vacuuming would squelch Mom’s distrust of what the brown carpeting was hiding. Plans to replace the carpet were put-off by my step-dad and Mom’s patience was wearing thin. As growing babies do, Emily began scooting around on the floor to explore the world around her and that was a game changer. Emily’s tiny white socks were dingy where she had scooted on the floor. The tiny defiled socks were proof positive that Mom’s suspicions were not unfounded and she took matters into her own hands-literally. Early on a Saturday morning, I awoke to quite a commotion. Mom, with a crowbar, box cutter and her tiny little hands was ripping the carpet up, leaving only the purple padding. While making her feel MUCH better, the stunt ended in a lengthy stalemate with my step-dad. Several weeks passed in the pristine house with the purple padding on the floor, before my step-dad relented and had new carpeting installed.
Clean facts worthy of sharing:
- Mom was chastised by her beloved dog’s veterinarian for giving the pooch a bath EVERY SINGLE DAY! (Please see photo of the dog’s reaction when she retrieves his tub from the laundry room)
- When lice broke out in my sister’s elementary class, she washed the girl’s hair with the medicated shampoo so many times that her scalp started to crack and bleed. Bedding was burned.
- The obsession with cleaning often spills out in how Mom communicates. Actual quote: “I don’t think he is the shiniest tool in the shed.”
- While bathing us, Mom used to put our shoestrings in the bathtub with us. The only things worse than dirty shoestrings were dirty shoes. She polished white tennis shoes each night.
- Mom’s doomsday preparation list would include: bleach, SpotShot, Windex, a dust mop and a broom.
Unfortunately, for Mom, her OCD cleaning gene is recessive…very recessive. She had three chances to see her affinity for the super clean manifest itself in the lives of her offspring and none of us have it. We seem to have picked up some of her habits and at times we get a little cranky when the laundry piles up or we fall behind on the household chores. However, I can (and do) go to bed with the throw pillows in disarray and the kitchen floor un-swept. After cooking a delicious meal, Kim can have a martini before the kitchen is clean and is perfectly content to allow someone else to clean it, while she has a martini. Emily’s movements can often be tracked from the time she enters the house by the things she leaves along the way…shoes…purse….scarf and I am 100% certain she has never dusted the outside of her car.
I used to stress over thinking Mom was going to be disappointed in me, if she discovered toothpaste not rinsed out of the sinks or that the load of clothes I have in the washer has to be washed again because I forgot to put it in the dryer (yesterday or possibly the day before that). How could this super woman who can clean, work, teach, workout, and meet the needs of so many people around her feel anything other than shame in having a daughter like me??? It would be just like my pint-sized dynamo of a mother to give me an out; to magnify my perceived domestic shortcomings as strengths which she lacked. In fact, that is exactly what she did.
It wasn’t long after the birth of my youngest child that I attended a mother-daughter dinner, where my mom was the speaker for the evening. As a dynamic speaker and teacher in women’s Christian ministry, I was prepared for an uplifting and powerful message from Mom. I was not expecting to hear her share the following story with the audience:
I am so lucky to have my oldest daughter, Karri, here with me tonight. I am even luckier to have her as my daughter. It is hard to believe that she is a mother of three children now and she is an amazing mom. (I am now thinking, where is she going with this? I sometimes suck on Sophi’s pacifier when she drops it on the ground and stick it back in her mouth. There is nothing amazing about that). In fact, I wish that I could have been more like the mom she is when she was growing up. She became a mother when she was fairly young. I remember one particular day when I stopped by her little rental house and I went in the front door and there were toys scattered all over the living room. I continued through the house and on the kitchen table there were two bowls where she and my granddaughter, Riley, had eaten cereal. (Great, she is up there on that stage telling them what a lousy housekeeper I am). The laundry room had several piles of clothes needing to be laundered. Where do you think I found her? She was in the backyard, sitting in a tiny sandbox building sandcastles with her daughter. You see, ladies, there will always be things to pick up, laundry that needs washed and dishes to do, but there are only so many moments in which we can build sand castles. I wish I had built more sandcastles.
Addendum: After consulting with my sisters, I was informed that my estimate of 99.9% of the chores were redone by Mom is incorrect and the actual amount was 110%.