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I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes—and six months later you have to start all over again.—Joan Rivers

 

Before I was married, I shared an apartment with two of my cousins. We swore an oath: if calamity were to befall any of us, the survivors would rush home and make the victim’s bed, do her dishes, and burn her letters** before mothers and aunts arrived on the scene. **[Clearly, this all occurred in the days when chips only came in potato or poker flavors, instead of micro.]

If you think becoming a mother made me more relaxed about my own mother’s visits, then either you are a husband or you have a very good cleaning lady. Take the time Mother called to say she was coming for a brief visit. Although I’d been eating lunch when she called, somehow by the time she hung up, I was mopping the floor with one hand, wiping the grease off the range hood with the other, and looking for a hiding place for the PopTarts.

Luckily, my refrigerator was already as clean as new. This unprecedented state was only because it was new. The old one had gone up in a shower of sparks a few days earlier. (The six-year-old was delighted. “Do it again, Mama, do it again!”)

There’s nothing like shopping for a major home appliance to make you realize that being an adult isn’t even close to what you expected. When I was five, I thought being a grown-up meant buying whatever you wanted in the areas of ice-cream and Barbie clothes. When I was sixteen, I thought being a grown-up meant buying whatever you wanted as long as the gas in the tank held out and you got home before 11p.m. Even when I was 21, I thought spending this kind of money would involve questions about carats or horsepower instead of humidity control and sealed compression systems. There is NEVER going to be anything remotely fun about humidity control and sealed compression systems.

But now I think buying a refrigerator is a lot like buying a car. My buying decision is based on the extent of the warranties and the GICCF (Gallons of Ice Cream per Cubit Foot) factor. Smaller models such as Italian sports cars or dorm-fridges can’t hold many gallons of ice cream, but do hold enough beer and/or Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia to be useful as marital aids. Larger models such as minivans and side-by-side fridges hold a lot of ice cream and enough open jars of Babies’ First Pureed Prunes-N-Yams to be useful as birth control.

Of course, before I bought my new refrigerator I read reviews in consumer magazines and asked for friends’ opinions. Then, armed with statistics and costs-per-kilowatt hour, I made a careful and informed decision to buy the one the salesman had: 1) in stock and 2)marked down because of a teeny little dent on the bottom—he kicked there while I watched—so he could sell it to me as a mark-down.

When the two young men arrived with the new refrigerator, they asked me where I wanted it.

“How about the kitchen?” I suggested. “You know, the place you just took the old fridge out of?”

“Sorry.” They looked at each other. “It probably won’t fit through the door. We could leave it on the porch. Is there some place to plug it in?”

It shows what motherhood does to you that I took a few minutes to consider the pros and cons of this proposal. On the one hand, cooking dinner might get a bit tricky. On the other hand, it would be within grabbing distance of the porch swing, currently the only place on the planet where the baby would fall asleep. I could pretty much live there for the next year or so until she slept through the night. Then I remembered my mother and aunt.

“How about if we take the kitchen doors off?” I suggested.

One of them seemed impressed by this idea, which had clearly never been floated before. “We could try that I guess.”

But the other one looked alarmed. “I’m not touching those doors. Remember how upset everybody got last time?”

“Oh come on, ” scoffed the first one. “That was just because you wrecked that old lady’s woodwork. This place…?” We all looked around in silent agreement that there wasn’t much they could do to the woodwork that the six-year-old hadn’t already attempted.

“I really hate my kitchen floor,” I offered by way of sealing the deal. “If you have to wreck something, just aim for that.” Unfortunately, the floor emerged unscathed, which meant I had just enough time to finish mopping it before my mother and her sister arrived.

“What would you like for dinner?” I asked them, knowing full well our larder could stretch to chicken or blue box mac-n-cheese, along with the giant zucchini the kids had been using as light sabers.

“Oh, anything is fine. We’re not at all fussy.”

“How about Cousin P’s chicken casserole and some zucchini?”

“Sounds great!” they chorused. “Except…”

Except one was on a low-sodium and the other on a low sugar diet. One had to cut out green vegetables and the other was worried about the cholesterol. They looked at each other and repeated, slowly, because clearly I was just not getting it. “That. Casserole. Is. Too. Much. Work. For. You.”

“Um…” I racked my brain for anything else to offer them that didn’t involve a blue Mac-n-Cheese box. “Cheerios?”

My mother suggested a wonderful chicken recipe involving biscuit mix and went off to buy corn. When she didn’t return, I asked my aunt how to make the recipe.

“I think you just mix it up like biscuits and put it on the chicken,” she suggested, and wandered off to look for my mother.

“What’s that?” Returning at last, Mother looked at my lumpy, batter-covered chicken frying in the cholesterol-free margarine. “Did you lose a bet?”

I explained about my aunt’s suggestions. Mother shook her head. “Why didn’t you just shake the chicken in the dry mix and bake it?”

“What’s that?” My aunt came back in and sniffed the air. “Did something die?”

I tried to explain. My aunt shook her head. “Why didn’t you just stew the chicken and make dumplings on top with the biscuit mix?”

“What’s that?” My family eyed the dough-covered chicken blobs.

“My next blog post.”

[NOTE FROM BARB: I should point out that this is a blast from the past. These days somehow I’M the visiting grandmother. How did that happen?]


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