Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Thursday, July 11, 2013

Clean Enough


The day I realized just how good I had it . . .
For the first twelve years of my life, 'cleanliness' and I really only had a nodding acquaintance.
I admit it.
Oh, I bathed. Whenever my Mom told me to.
And I cleaned my room/living quarters.
Again when my Mom told me.
Mom was a clean nut.
But the Christmas of my twelfth year, something happened that changed me forever.
And made me realize that I like things to be clean around me.
Really clean.
Let me explain . . .
We had been invited to the home of some good friends for dinner.
It was exciting.
Families with six kids didn't get invited out very often.
For purely logistical reasons.
At least that's what I tell myself.
Moving on . . .
We drove up and were warmly welcomed into the house.
We stepped into the entryway.
And, for the first time in my life, I noticed dirt.
The house was filthy.
I mean filthy.
You couldn't tell what colour the floor tiles were, or even if there were floor tiles. I honestly think some of them were missing, but it was hard to know.
We were led to the kitchen, where the grand feast was being prepared.
I stopped in the doorway.
Frozen.
Or stuck.
It was hard to tell the difference.
Both the counter and the table in the kitchen were generously coated in the reminder of many, many meals. And things had obviously overflowed more than a few times and dripped down the front of the cupboards to pool on the floor.
The stove was unrecognizable.
Even the walls were a hazy sort of conglomerate yellow-grey. The result of the overlapping of hundreds of filthy fingerprints, splashed whatever, and humidity.
Light was dimly provided by several bare, yellowed bulbs.
Perhaps that was a blessing.
One couldn't quite make out exactly what the rubble was, lying heaped in the far corners of the room.
And under the table.
My parents stepped carefully and cheerfully into the room, already deep in conversation with our hosts.
"Is there anything we can help with?" Mom said. This was her usual and inevitable response when entering anyone's home.
Or garden.
Or feed lot.
Huh. Feed lots. And cleanliness . . .
But I digress . . .
"Oh, no, Enes, we've got things well in hand," was her response.
Well in hand?!
I'll just keep mine in my pockets, thank you very much.
"Diane, come and help us."
Mom had noticed my hesitation.
But had somehow missed the rising green colour.
"Sorry, Mom. But I think I need to go outside for a moment."
I remember her look.
Suspicion with just a slight touch of concern.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm really not feeling very well."
She came over to me.
I remember the sound of her feet, sticking to the floor with every step.
She put a hand on my forehead.
"Hmm. You seem a little warm. Maybe you'd better join the men in the front room."
The mess went on?
I couldn't bear to venture further.
"No, I really think I'd better go outside."
I was beginning to sound more than a bit rushed.
"Do you need the bathroom, honey?" our hostess asked solicitously.
My eyes widened. I could only imagine.
"Um, no. Just some fresh air."
I bolted towards the door.
And I do mean bolted. I hardly noticed my feet sticking to the floor.
Soon, I was outside in the fresh air.
Happily sitting in the nice clean dirt.
With the family dog.
He and I knew a good thing when we found it.

14 comments:

  1. lol That's what I'd do if I didn't want people coming over. Sweet revenge lol
    I am not over clean like my Mom was. I just think there is more to life than scrubbing all day.
    No one appreciates it.
    Today they teach women that family has to help out and not do everything, that once it becomes so bad, even they don't like it, they will help clean.
    But they watch the same programs and will not be tricked into cleaning lol
    So filth it is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm. Never thought of using it as a deterrent. Now that's an idea...

      Delete
  2. Oh, my! How did this story end? Hopefully not with food poisoning ... !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Surprisingly everyone emerged unscathed. Shocking, really. :)

      Delete
  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lynn I'm so sorry I accidentally erased your comment! I was trying to comment and I don't know what happened! I was going to tell you how I sympathized with your horrifying experience! I certainly do not blame you for never going back! I never did, either.

      Delete
    2. lol. No worries. Maybe it's a good thing my experience isn't in print.....especially if someone is eating their lunch while reading your post. ; )

      Delete
  4. My house is not the best... I put up an effort but I would never invite someone over for dinner with my house looking the way you explained. I would have been way to embarrassed. :-/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm the same! I'm so embarrassed if someone drops in and the kids' toys are all over the floor . . .

      Delete
  5. You are such a descriptive writer; I could just imagine it all. We are Inner city Missionaries and most of those we work with have homes just like this. We are finding that most of those individuals have generational uncleanliness. Also, many of them have some kind of mental illness.
    I usually just want to come home and dust and clean my house.
    Blessings for this one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Inner city missionaries?! Oh, that must be a challenge!
      Isn't it funny that most people react with the urge to go home and clean? Blessings back to you!

      Delete
  6. I've been in places like that before. Do you take your shoes off and get your socks dirty? Or do you leave them on and insult the host? I remember picking up a teaching manual for Mom. When the lady opened the door, the stench of inside wafted out. In the living room in front of the cluttered TV was a knawed piece of bread and jam, jamside down, on the carpet. I took the manual back a couple of weeks later, and the same piece of bread and jam was in the same place. Maybe they substituted another one and carefully measured it's position so they could place the other one in precisely the same location. Talk about having to break wind for fresh air...

    ReplyDelete
  7. I've been in places like that, thinking I should have put on a Hazmat suit before walking in. I always go home and clean after that. I don't mind a little mess and clutter now and again, but it must still be clean. Toys, books, newspapers strewn around don't bother me, but uncleaned dishes, floors, walls etc make me wish I hadn't visited, more so if I'm offered food or drink, which I always decline.

    ReplyDelete

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