I was at my mom's house, in her vegetable garden, complaining, "no, please, I love when you watch the kids, 'cause you leave the kitchen spotless. When dad watches them I come home and the place is trashed, so can you watch them this Thursday?"
"Well, that's the way he always was," she says. The she adds very casually, "you're sloppy too," and continues carefully re-potting a geranium.
I didn't really know what to say. She didn't say it accusingly or harshly, but still.
My mom called me sloppy.
We figured out the childcare logistics I needed to deal then I went home in a self-righteous sour puss mood.
I'm busy! I have two kids! I can't clean up after myself all the time for gods sake. My older brother Aaron, the financial advisor is and always has been compulsively and effortlessly neat. He also has the dough to hire a cleaning lady. Mom obviously loves him more and thinks he's better at everything, which is probably true. Last Thanksgiving morning, trying to plan who would carve the bird later, she looked right in my eyes and said, "Aaron's probably a good carver right? "
I got home and looked in the kitchen. There was a little brown pool of slime in one corner of the counter top. The yellow Formica dinner table had a few days tea stains on it. A large mountain of dirty silverware was cross-polinating in the sink. I didn't have anything I was gonna do that afternoon but go on Facebook and avoid looking at the girls page who just dumped me last week. Or watch the songs go by on Pandora maybe, that's always fun.
Mike C from Kitchen on Fire always cleaned while he cooked and never really stopped to eat until the kitchen was spotless. "Clean as you go! Clean as you go!" he's say.
My old greek freind Nike would burst up and clean her creaky old coal-fired New England kitchen perfectly before heading up to her freezing bedroom. And by that time she'd smoked a pack of Carletons and had two Jim Beams and four glasses of wine. Whisking her tiny five foot frame around the cavernous room, organizing silverware in what had been the butler's closet several generations ago, she'd continue busily conversating as she scrubbed the deep old slate sink, talking about the novel she was writing or her early days in New York and how her husband had bought a painting for 60 dollars in 50's from a neighbor in East Hampton who needed money for whiskey. "It was Jackson Pollack, and we lost it our someone stole it or something I was just furious at Robert about it..."
So three morals to this story.
1. Don't be gross. Respect the food and the cooking and clean as you go. That could be some fucking Ebola sprouting in that little pool on the counter.
2. Your mother may sometimes be right about you.
3. Eat alone as rarely as possible. Then you have someone to talk with while you clean.
Yes I clean up the kitchen almost every time we cook and eat. I make my kids do dishes as well. It actually makes things taste better. Look, I hate doing dishes, but I love doing them at other people's houses. I like to feel useful. So invite me over, feed me, and your work is done.