Monday, April 24, 2017
COLUMN: Mom Clean
ince I'm the guy who usually writes about fluffy inconsequential stuff, I try not to ever bring up the secret shame I've lived with my entire life. It's just too somber for this column.
You see, I was born without the neatness gene. (Insert gasp here. I'll wait.) But pity me not, Quad Cities. Don't treat me any differently. I'm just like you -- except that I'm really, really bad at keeping my house clean and tidy. Curse the gods for this unlucky hand I've been dealt!
What's that, you say? There's no such thing as a "neatness gene"? Well, how ELSE can you explain that, despite the best of intentions, I can never seem to keep my house as clean and tidy as I'd like?
Honestly, I've made great strides. I remember having to run at my dorm room door full speed just to push enough debris aside that I could squeeze in. My first apartment was little more than an empty pizza box storage facility.
But when I bought my house, I made a concentrated effort to live like a decent human being in a manner that couldn't legally be declared a biohazard. As far as I'm concerned, it's been a resounding success. But this isn't a story about MY concern. This is a tale of my amateur neatness skills being put to the ultimate test by the ultimate critic. That's right, my MOM was coming up for a visit.
My mother has no shortage of neatness DNA. She acts laid-back and casual, but stick her in a messy house and see how long that lasts. She'll ask for a sponge within minutes. I can't tell you the number of times I've popped home for a visit to have my mom apologize for "such a huge mess," when not ONE thing was out of place and I'm pretty sure you could've performed sterile brain surgery on ANY surface in that house.
I love my parents, and we are a super tight family. I just tend to love them more when I'm the visitor instead of the visitee. But they were coming up so my dad could do some free yard work, so I wasn't about to complain. I was about to clean. There's MY version of clean, and then there's MOM's version of clean -- and I had some serious work to do.
Thankfully, my parents know well enough to give me plenty of lead time. Every day last week, I came home from work only to get to work. But the more I cleaned, the more disgusting things got. Instead of making headway, I was unearthing dust bunnies and cat hair and all sorts of things that go "yuck" in the night.
"I should put this in the junk drawer" gave way to "wow, I need to clean out the junk drawer" which gave way to weird little piles of junk being dispersed throughout the house. Every time I moved something, an undiscovered herd of dust bunnies would make a break for it. And those dust bunnies were nothing compared to the dust manatees lurking above my ceiling fans.
Eventually, and with the help of some friends, the place was clean. Not just clean -- but dare I say it, MOM clean. It even smelled springtime fresh. Two days later, I left work to meet my parents at my house. Thankfully, I beat them by about five minutes, which was just enough time to walk in... and scream.
Here's what I reckon happened. I went to work Monday morning. My cats woke up, took one good look around the immaculately clean house, and decided the best course of action would be to hold an immediate vomit war. My perfectly clean living room floor was covered in hairballs and indescribable nastiness. Instead of smelling springtime fresh, it smelled like recycled Cat Chow. I didn't even have time to be grossed out. I just opened a window, grabbed a can of carpet cleaner, and got to scrubbing.
By the time my folks showed up, I had it all cleaned up. Victory! Perhaps that neatness gene didn't skip a generation after all. My mom stepped in the house, took one look around, and said, "It smells weird. Why is your window open and the a/c on? You weren't born in a barn. Did you let a newspaper sit on your porch all day long? That's just a giant neon sign to thieves that says, 'I'm not home! Please come rob me!'"
Win some, lose some, I guess. She's a tough cookie to impress. I just think I'll always be her little kid and she thinks it's helpful to lecture. Often, it is. And honestly, it doesn't matter. I got to spend time with my parents, I got some free yard work out of the deal, and I'm left with a house that's the cleanest it's been in months. It may not have passed the mom test, but my friends will be speechless.