Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My OCD was given to me

Better Meals!

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.
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. Speaking of 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.
"Thanks, 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.


  1. Oh dear! I don't think I would have forgotten an experience like that either... I would have done just as you did. I'm always griping about my dirty house to my kids (meaning clean laundry in the living room and last night's dishes in the sink... not filth, just mess) and harping on them to pick up after themselves. My daughter doesn't think it's that bad... Let's just say, being a working mom and not being able to clean my house the way I used to has just about killed me. I hope I survive until they all grow up. 6 years to go... hmmm... I hope I make it! :)

  2. I get somewhat the same reaction every time I watch an episode of hoarders. The next day I purge stuff.

  3. Amazing how these incidents 'stick' with us!!

  4. Blecky, bleck, bleck! I think this may be why I've been so stressed during the home remodeling--I'm not good at organizing so keeping things clean with so much disorder is driving me nuts!

  5. I used to work as an OT in the inner city and would go to people's house and saw a few homes like this, I used to go home and shower. I was once in a home with tons of Fly paper hanging down from the ceiling and it got stuck in my hair:( Needless to say I refused to go back after the first visit (plus I think the children were dealing drugs out the back door while I was there):(

  6. Oh friend...that's how I feel when I look around my house right now.
    Ugh--I probably exaggerate--but there must at least be a tinge of green to my skin color.
    Tomorrow MUST be a cleaning day...
    Always always enjoy your stories...


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