The kids think I don’t see it. They think I don’t see the concern that lines their faces when they awake to find me up, dressed, and feeding the dogs. They think I don’t notice the glitter of fear in their eyes as I set up the ironing board, or hear the hushed whispers between them as I spritz the first pair of pants with spray starch.
“What is she doing?,” my daughter hisses under her breath to her younger brother. “Um, I think she’s ironing,” he mouths back at her. “I didn’t even know she knew how,” his sister says in an intense whisper,” although there was that one time in 2001. And when did we get a new ironing board? I thought she threw it out?” Barely controlled hysteria creeps into her voice as she exclaims, “My God! The kitchen’s been cleaned “
At 16 and 13, respectively, my daughter and son are old enough to intuit that the job search is not going well for their mother. In a fit of desperation, I’ve turned my unfulfilled creative energies towards learning, and mastering, the domestic arena. Having a mother on a cleaning kick is never a good thing, especially when you’re her captive audience for the entire summer, and the kids rightly suspect that nothing good can come out of this for them.
Clothes have been washed, folded, and put away. Our leather furniture has been cleaned and buffed. The carpets have been vacuumed, the dogs washed, and measurements taken for drapes. (We’ve been in the house for nearly a year. It was time.)
Presently, I’m trying my hand at ironing. So far, so good. I’ve managed to line up the creases in my husband’s pants, haven’t scorched anything, and have even successfully used a press cloth for the first time. (Okay, so I didn’t even know what one was until I went shopping for my new ironing board last week. They were hanging on a hook next to the boards in little packages that helpfully explained what they were and how to use them. I must remember to contact my first-grade teacher and thank her for teaching me to read.) The shirts were a little more difficult, but other than the fact that I think I put too much starch in my husband’s shirt collar, I think I did okay. (And really – how important is it that he be able to put his chin down or his head back?)
My next “action item” (I can’t let myself become totally detached from the corporate world.) is to delegate chores to my children. Rooms must be cleaned, dogs must be walked, clothes folded, and yardwork done. I find them huddled in front of the computer, looking dejected and speaking in hushed tones to each other. As I approach, my son catches the scent of my new cologne (Eau de Endust – lemony and fresh!) and blanches. He hurriedly closes out the browser window, but not fast enough to prevent me from realizing what they’ve been studying. It’s the Monster.com mailing list signup form.