Today is my mother’s birthday. She would have been seventy-something. You see we were never really sure how old she really was and for that matter neither was she. She didn’t possess a birth certificate until she was nearing retirement and they made her get one. She had a hard life you can read about it here. Her birth was never registered, in fact she never knew if her sister was her mother or her mother was really her grandmother or maybe she was her own grandma. Regardless she grew up knowing the day of her birth was April 27 but she just wasn’t sure of the year. I am not sure why I tell you this other than I am quantifying telling you about my mother and some of her odd quirks.
My mother was one of the cleaningest women I have ever seen. She cleaned non-stop. There were things you did in her house and there were things you didn’t. You always took your shoes off at the door, you never spit in the kitchen sink, you always wiped down the kitchen cabinets with bleach and you raked the carpet.
Again let me explain. When I was in junior high we got new wall to wall carpeting. It was called shag carpeting. You know it was kind of like hippie carpet. Long and fluffy and in order to keep it looking fluffy you had to rake it. So every night before I heard Nurse Meme’s T-bird pull into the drive I would be feverishly raking the shag carpet. I would do it right before she came in the door because the rest of the evening I would have been sitting in the big gold velvet chair with my feet draped over the side reading the latest “forbidden” book and watching television. I would look up realize it was 11:30 p.m. and would break world speed vacuuming records. I am here to tell you if they put that in the Olympics I would enter and win, well that is if Matilda didn’t enter.
Then I would grab the rake that looked exactly like a leaf rake only plastic and I would run through the house raking like a crazy gardener. Then I would stash rake and vacuum in the closet and throw myself into bed just as she walked through the back door. Yes she knew but she always pretended she didn’t. That was just how things worked.
Time went by styles changed and Nurse Meme remodeled her house and bought new wall to wall carpeting. She no longer had shag to rake. She installed the thickest plushest pile carpeting you have ever seen. Those of you who are a little OCD will understand when I say it is like being in hell trying to vacuum deep pile carpeting. Why? What do you mean why? It is like being in hell because there is no way to vacuum it without leaving streaks.
Have you ever watched the program Monk? Monk is a detective with the San Francisco P.D. but he loses his wife and suffers from OCD. This all makes for a very funny and interesting show. There is one episode where he is trying to vacuum the carpet without leaving streaks. This was just too close to home for me. It made my left eye twitch, my vacuum hand started shaking and my legs went numb. You see, I am the child of the female version of Monk. Nurse Meme would have an apoplexy if you left streaks in the carpet. She would literally pull your stripped butt out of bed and make you vacuum until there were no more streaks. I tell you it is impossible.
You pull the vacuum one way, then you push it the other. You go diagonally and then vertically. You step back only to see a big line in the middle of the floor which can only be pulled out by vacuuming back into the center of the room and vacuuming your way out. You step back and dang it now there is a big patch going the wrong way in the far corner. You keep after this futile project for hours. You stand looking at the floor with tears of frustration streaming down your cheeks and failure weighing your body down like a thousand pound anchor. You march your vacuum back to the corner and start all over again. This was a daily ritual for me for many, many years. Even when I would return home to visit, I would always run the vacuum daily for my mother making sure to not leave streaks. Okay, I always left streaks but I tried like hell not to leave them. Nurse Meme always saw them and always told me I was vacuuming wrong.
I tell you this story because the other day while working at the amazing Technicolor house I had to vacuum the pile carpeting. I vacuumed this way, then that. I pushed it this way and pulled it diagonally. I finally gave up. I put the vacuum away and packed up my tools and went home. That night I had a visitor. Yes it was Nurse Meme. She came to me in my dream. There I am sitting at a table drinking coffee out in the middle of the desert. Nurse Meme appears next to me at the table. She picks up a cup of coffee and says “Gladys, you need to vacuum. Do not leave streaks.”
Happy Birthday Nurse Meme, I miss you and love you and I will try not to leave streaks in the carpet of life.