Meeting mom's measure of a tidy home is an accomplishment
Columnist Dan Conradt says one of the best things about having a visitor is that it forces you to clean the house.
“Are you going to be home this afternoon?” mom asked.
“Uh … sure,” I said. “Why?”
“I need to get groceries, and I’ll stop at your house on the way home.”
“I’ll be here,” I said. “What time?”
“About three o’clock?”
“See you then.”
I hung up the phone and took a quick look around the house; it would easily meet the cleanliness requirements of my football-watching buddies — those guys would ignore haz-mat signs as long as there was beer in the fridge — but I was pretty sure my mom’s standards were higher.
It was the first place I rented after moving out of my childhood home, a tiny house before they became fashionable: a closet-sized living room, a bedroom barely big enough for my bed, a bathroom the size of one you’d find on an airplane and a kitchen where you could reach everything by standing in one spot and turning in a circle.
For a single guy, it was perfect.
But even a tiny house needs occasional cleaning, and suddenly the clock was ticking: T-minus one hour until mom arrived.
I stepped outside and took a couple of deep, cleansing breaths, then went back in to evaluate the indoor smells — the faint scent of a new bar of Irish Spring wasn’t enough to offset the musty smell of laundry in need of washing and the memory of last night’s chili.
Something smelled like a wet dog. I didn’t have a dog.
The house was just big enough to have one window on each side, and despite the cold, I opened all four of them; I figured I could allow half an hour of cross-ventilation and still have time for the furnace to reheat the house before mom showed up.
I washed a sink full of dirty dishes and it wasn’t even Sunday.
I would have given the floor a quick once-over with the vacuum if I had one, but I’d only been in the house for three months. I ran a damp cloth over my scant collection of used furniture, made the bed, and swished some Dutch Cleanser in the bathroom sink.
I’d just given the living room a couple of spritzes of Right Guard when a car door slammed.
“Hi, mom!” I said, opening the door for her.
She stepped into the house and handed me a Red Owl grocery bag.
“This is for you,” she said. “Would you like me to take off my shoes?”
“No, leave them on,” I said. For your own protection.
We spent half an hour making small talk — dad was keeping busy, my brothers were fine, work was going well and everyone was healthy.
“Your plant looks nice,” mom said; she’d given me the philodendron cutting when I moved in. It was my only concession to domesticity, and eventually survived four moves and grew into a 12-foot vine before dying of old age.
“I should get home,” mom said. “I’ve got ice cream in the car. Can you come for lunch Saturday?”
“I’ll be there.”
“Good,” she said. “We’ll have pork shops.”
She stopped at the front door and took one last look around. “This is a nice little house,” she said. “Nice and clean.” It might have been the most gratifying compliment she’d ever given me.
One of the best things about having a visitor is that it forces you to clean the house. And if that visitor happens to be your mom and she brings Fig Newtons, even better.
Dan Conradt, a lifelong Mower County resident, lives in Austin with his wife, Carla Johnson.