Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cleanliness is Next to...You Guessed It!!

On all weekdays before I began kindergarten and on all school breaks thereafter, my mother would drop me off at my grandmother’s house on her way to her eight to five job. My grandmother had never learned to drive and my grandfather was never home before at least three o’clock, so we were alone most of the time. She had a strict schedule that she had developed which included heavy daily cleaning, cooking the meal for the day, praying her rosary, watching her “stories,” and teaching me how to be a little lady. She always allowed plenty of time to play, but there was plenty of time for little lady lessons as well.

There are so many examples of ways that my grandmother taught me to be kind, gentle, and nurturing. We prayed, we rocked, she sang, we cleaned, and we played. She taught me how to dress my dolls like proper young ladies, serve coffee to guests and speak French, the only language that she and my grandfather spoke ninety percent of the time. Looking back, if I had to choose one single example of a lesson she taught me, it is undoubtedly the sweetest, and the funniest lesson of all.

I have to begin this story by telling you that my grandmother was obsessed with cleanliness. Nevertheless, she did acquiesce to my fondness for making mud pies from time to time, especially if she had to work in her garden. Though the dirt on face and homemade dresses that she had lovingly made for me must have driven her insane, she never complained, nor did I even dare to resist her ordering me straight into the bathtub as soon as we went back into the house. I must have been the cleanest kid in Louisiana! (My skin is still dry to this day.) My mother laughs to this day when she says, "Sometimes I would get back from work and you had already had three baths."   “Ladies are always clean,”  Mawmaw would say as she powdered me from head to toe and put on my second or third dress of the day. She would then sing to me, brush my hair and make me brush my teeth- again!

Now that I am a grandmother, I find myself becoming more and more like Mawmaw. I let Eleni get dirty, but I am quick to clean her up. She has a little pink tub in my bathroom and we use it often, Of course, that is after I let her eat graham crackers and make a total mess. When she goes home, I clean, clean, clean. Until then, we play, play, eat, bathe. When I rock her to sleep, I sing to her. She is so used to it that if I stop signing, she pulls out her pacifier and hums until I start signing again. As she grows older, we will play with tea sets, give her dolls baths and, yes, make mud pies. I will even teach her some French songs that my grandmother taught me. I guess I should also buy some curlers for when she gets bored. God help me! As I do these things I realize just how much my Mawmaw loved me because I feel that love for Eleni. In that way, Mawmaw lives on, and I realize that she has been with me all along.

Mawmaw's Cleaning Tips: (Many of which I still need to employ!)

-Clean something in your house every day and it will never get dirty.

-You can never have too many dish towels.

-Begin your day by cleaning; get it over with. Plus, you rest better in a clean house.

-Rinse the bathtub after every use.

-Always fix your beds in case company comes over.

-Teach your children and grandchildren to clean at an early age.

-Don't keep stuff you don't need. She had virtually no closet space, but nothing was ever, ever out of place.

-Laundry hung out in the sun smells and feels better, plus it saves electricity. I could hang laundry on the line by the time I was five! Maybe that is why I keep bugging my husband to make a clothesline for me in our backyard. I miss the smell and feel of sheets dried out in the sun.

-Always have a few items of clothing washed and wrinkle free because you want to be ready to go; you never know when you will need them. Stuff happens when you least expect it to happen. Be ready and be clean.

-Now I need to go clean my house because if she saw it this minute she would fuss me for sure!