My house is filled with love. And dirt. After several years without outside cleaning help, I finally acknowledged that I wasn't cutting the mustard. So, I asked around and hired a woman named Virginia.
It became clear from our first interaction that Virginia was going to be the alpha in our relationship. She not only told me the day and time she would come to my house, she then subsequently called me just before her arrival to say she went home after another client forgot to leave a key. And Virginia didn't feel like sticking around.
But I was desperate, so with a promise that she would show up next time, we tried again. The following week she was there, bright and early, and without conversation, headed straight upstairs.
What happened in the next few hours was nothing short of a painful miracle. It was like being interviewed on the sidewalk by a roving reporter about fashion and suddenly realizing you were the unwitting subject of "What Not to Wear."
As I sat at my desk listening to the sounds upstairs, I felt a mixture of curiosity, fear, and concern. Obviously, they were in my closet, which was off-limits to all living things except the air conditioner man, because the attic entrance was located on my closet ceiling. My messy closet is my dirty little secret, my scarlet letter, my shame. For someone to go in there and start poking around was the equivalent of tucking my skirt in my underwear and sending me down the runway.
Things were being slammed and clanked and tugged --- and then the avalanche began. One after the other, trash bags were hurled down the stairs. The first one startled me, but when I saw what it was, I relaxed. We have three trashcans upstairs, so naturally there would be a bag of trash. But then another one came rolling down, and another. What on earth were in THOSE bags?!
That's when my inner hoarder took over. I kept devising reasons to walk by the bags, to peek at what was inside. One bag, the length of a human body, was completely full of shoe boxes. If a stranger is willing to throw out someone's empty shoe boxes from their private closet, what else were they capable of? I broke out into a sweat and began to plan how I would make sure she didn't take the trash with her so I could sort through it later under the cover of darkness.
After hours of scalping my upstairs, Virginia and her assistant moved in for the kill downstairs. Their mops were fully loaded and ready for battle. With a sheepish grin, thinking of all the horrors they must have encountered upstairs, I tiptoed to my bedroom and hid from their judging eyes.
Truly, they beat the hell out of my house. I swear I heard my knickknacks screaming. But after 5 hours and 15 minutes, I got the call that the war was over, and Virginia had won.
Me: "Thank you Virginia. How much do I owe you?"
Me on the inside: Sh!t.
Me on the outside: quizzical look nervous laugh?
Virginia: "Oh sorry, 200."
(Because in Spanish, her first language, 200 is pronounced as if it is 2,000)
Me: "Can you come back in 2 weeks?
Virginia: "It is better for me to come back in 3 weeks on a different day."
After she left, I danced around the house like Julie Andrews on the Von Trapp mountain, breathing in the Pine Sol scent. I was alive again!
I walked into the kitchen to admire the stove top, when disaster struck. There, on my terracotta tiles was a large discolored splatter stain, clearly visible by the sink. The illusion was shattered and the dream was over.
I texted Virginia with the news. She called me that evening and promised to come by the following day to fix it.
I thought this would be when the tide would turn, and I would take back control of the relationship. Virginia walked in the next day, spoke to her assistant in their mother tongue, and got down to look at the problem. I got down too, thinking it would reassure her that I wasn't angry, I just wanted it fixed.
Virginia looked at me dead in the eye, and said, "This floor was very dirty. I had to clean it two times. It is showing stains that were hiding under the dirt."
Shame, shame, double shame, everybody knows your name! This moment reminded me of when my mom took my sister to the doctor when she was a baby because she had a rash on her neck. The doctor took a cotton ball, swabbed it in alcohol, and wiped the rash off. "It's dirt" he said. And my mom tucked tail and ran.
That night, as my family continued the clean house celebration, we began examining the garbage. Apparently, Virginia did not care for a pair of my slippers, my daughter's immigration project, a souvenir newspaper from a Gator football championship, and one of my musical theatre scores. I laughed and faked indignation at her choices, but inside I was asking myself, "What message is Virginia trying to send me? Does she think I am unstable? Are these slippers ugly?"
As I now sit in my house and actually entertain the notion of hosting parties and teas here once again, I am reminded of a passage from a famous newspaper article by Francis Pharcellus Church, "Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS."
Yes Virginia, my house is a pit and I am a crazy white lady who has never vacuumed under the bed. But that is why we pray, so that God and Santa Claus will grant our wishes and give us faith for another year.
Until next time, keep crowin' and cleanin'!