Thursday, August 28, 2008

What my mother didn't teach me

I spent all day today working on the house and fall cleaning. As I was discovering the joys of ammonia in a cleaning solution the recurring thought running through my mind was, why didn't my mother teach me how to clean house? Isn't that what mothers do? Teach their daughters how to keep house? Truly, who else do you learn these skills from? Everything I know about cleaning I learned from a college roomate, the mother of one of my 4-H kids, and our old next door neighbor.

In the years I've been a mother I've come to understand that there are two types of women, the stick mop women and the down on their knees scrubbing the floor type of women. The women in my family have always been the sponge and stick mop type of women. I never really understood the appeal of crawling around on your hands and knees while scrubbing the kitchen floor. Today (after meeting my new friend ammonia) I finally understand. It's really dirty down there. There's sticky stuff that resembles strawberry jam around the bottom of all the baseboards (and we have house cleaners come in every two weeks, I shudder to think what it would be like without them!!!). The table legs have deposits on them that resemble inkblots. Red Kool-Aid powder has coated everything (seriously, even on the plant shelves). I thought I was doing a fine job cleaning with my handy sponge mop, but I barely even touched the surface of the dirt. Why didn't my mom show me how to truly clean while I was a teenager and living at home?

Well, let me try to remember back.... hmm.... I remember Mom working a lot. She worked really physically hard every day at her job as a USDA, FSIS red meat inspector. We spent a lot of time doing the 4-H thing. Every Saturday morning we did the laundry, mopped the kitchen floor (with a sponge/stick mop), and vacuumed.

Hmmm.... maybe Mom taught me other important things. Cleaning's not the most fun thing I've ever learned and I sure wish I knew what I was doing before things got built up, but it's possible that the things Mom did teach me were more important and more relevant to our lives. She did teach me how to give shots (subcutaneous, intramuscular, and intrvaenous). She taught me how to turn transverse lambs so that we had one end or the other presenting for delivery instead of the back. She also taught me how to figure out which legs went with which triplet. She taught me how to divide perennials and how to start willow cuttings to make new trees. She taught me to saddle my own horse, and how to train a new horse to load in the trailer. She taught me everything I know about herding and handling critters, whether they're sheep, dogs, horses, or kids (the human variety as well as the goat variety). She taught me never to loose my cool during an emergency because that helps no one. She taught me that fences can be mended but trees won't survive a girdling (or to be precise, they won't survive if movement of water and nutrients through the phloem and xyleum is disrupted in a circle completely around the tree). She taught me that rainbows are light reflections through water drops and you see out of your eyes because of a complex arrangement of cones and reflectors (although I really wanted to know what the world would look like through someone else's eyes).

It is entirely possible that I am better off for having had to learn how to clean late in my life.

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Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room