Mother was proud of her front door mat that said “Martha Stewart Doesn’t Live Here“. She believed keeping house was beneath her so did not bother with everyday mundane chores like dusting, sweeping, vacuuming and dishes. Clutter could have been her middle name.
The funny thing was that she would never discourage visits from anybody. Actually, looking back, it’s not really that funny, but we grew up in an environment where if you didn’t laugh, you cried.
So, in Mother’s world, if someone…anyone…came to the door, she would open it, welcome them in, and tell them to find a seat if they could. Most people would have been embarrassed to death to have anyone see how they lived, but not our mother. She always said:
If they don’t like the way I keep house, then they can visit someone else.
Mother did not realize that once they visited, they did not return. Or more likely she didn’t care. My sister Abby and I were careful not to invite our friends over for oh so many reasons. The messy house, the stage of inebriation Mother may be in and her mood swings all were adequate reasons to make sure our house was off limits. We eagerly accepted invitations to our schoolmates homes. We also had a bevy of excuses as to why our home was not available without ever telling the truth.
Mother never outgrew her hatred for cleaning and continued to live out her years in a messy environment, or as messy as my sister and I would allow. Our battles with her revolved around her trying to mess up her apartment and on more than one occasion we had to remind her that when you live communally, you must keep a certain level of cleanliness.
Mother was like the reversal of the 1960’s television show “Bewitched”. When Samantha, the witch character, would wrinkle up her nose and her entire home was miraculously tidy. On the other hand, in the bizarre alternative universe that Mother had created, she could mess up her entire apartment in a New York minute. All she really had to do was glance around the apartment and voila, it was suddenly a horrible mess of clutter.
For someone who never moved very fast, it was like an Olympic sport for her. She could have earned the gold medal!