An Unexpected Visitor

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series Issue VII: Winter 2011

by Daisy Menkes Klein

Housework always was the biggest challenge of my day to day life. Somehow my brain seemed not capable of organizing all the accumulated junk I owned. Eventually I figured out that the basis of good housekeeping is throwing or giving things away as soon as their utility becomes only slightly questionable but back many years ago when my older child was four and the younger one  a toddler of one, I was totally overwhelmed. My feeble attempts to straighten out the place turned into dismal failures; like the time when  I  finally succeeded putting  the children’s books back on the shelves,  my son would throw them all down again and my little daughter would proceed to tear out the pages. “No, no,” I screamed but it did not help much. The floor was littered with toys, the beds were unmade, and the remains of breakfast, or lunch, or maybe both were still on the table – unappetizing leftover pieces of scrambled eggs, greasy butter smears, and dirty dishes – a total nightmare. How could I ever straighten out this mess? Maybe when the kids will take their naps. Right now they were wide awake and ready for all kinds of mischief.

And then ….the downstairs buzzer rings.

“Who is it?”

“Barbara,”

“Barbara?”

“Your cousin Barbara. I was in the neighborhood.”

Barbara is my husband’s cousin’s daughter. Her mother was the neatest person in the world. She was the woman who races to empty the ash trays before anyone  puts down a cigarette. Barbara was her mother’s daughter. She had been married only a few months,  barely 18 years old,  and now pregnant.  She also kept an immaculate  house.

“Can I come up and say hello for a minute?”

Could I say no? I couldn’t – so she came up and… gasped.  She had been at our home before at family parties but then both my husband and I had spent lots of time doing our best to make the place look habitable. Barbara was less than half my age and I felt ashamed and humiliated.

“We had a tough day,” I tried to explain, “Sorry about the mess.” Barbara was embarrassed too. She tried to make nice to the children who at this point were getting cranky and not at all interested in her. They started to whine. “Mommy, carry me.” The little one held on to my leg and would not let me move and my son wanted to know if he could have candy.  He could not. They both screamed – they were finally getting tired. “Barbara, I am sorry this is not a good time,”- the understatement of the year.

“Sure,” she said “sorry to have bothered you,” and she left. Now she had a story to tell to all the other cousins. Cousin Lou had married a real slob.

What can I tell you?  Lou’s family never showed up unannounced after that incident. The children grew up. I learned to throw stuff away but I am still not ready for an impromptu visitor who will catch me in my messy home.

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