Doing housework has never been one of my favorite activities. As a toddler, I was terrified of the vacuum cleaner. If Mom wanted to vacuum the living room rug in peace, she had to draft someone to take me for a walk.
By the time I was eight, my parents were fairly certain that I had gotten over that nonsense. So, early one Saturday morning, Mom flipped the switch on the vacuum cleaner, turned it over to me, and pointed me in the direction of the living room. Within minutes, I had toppled a couple of lamps, knocked my little brother into the magazine rack, and scared the cat out of three or four of her nine lives.
“Do it yourself before she kills us all,” Dad hollered, extracting Mopsy from his shredded trouser leg.
Unfortunately, my father’s instinct for self-preservation condemned my mother to doing most of the housework forever.
When I was thirteen, my parents decided that I was old enough to starting helping out around the house on a regular basis. But, by that time, I was beyond rehabilitation. I just couldn’t seem to get the hang of housework. Mom complained that I dusted around knickknacks and doilies and failed to vacuum the corners of the living room—or any room.
My incompetence annoyed Mom even more when it came to keeping my bedroom picked up. She claimed the place looked like an explosion at a rummage sale. “How can you tell the clean clothes from the dirty ones?” she frequently asked. Sometimes I couldn’t. I also suspected that I held the town record for having the most overdue library books. They were usually shoved under my bed, where they stayed until the librarian reminded me that they should have been returned weeks ago.
When Mom couldn’t stand the sight of it anymore, she cleaned my bedroom. Coincidentally, she usually did this right before we were expecting guests. Throughout my adolescence, Mom had a recurring nightmare in which an overnight guest took a wrong turn on the way to the bathroom, stumbled into my bedroom, and disappeared forever.