Damn, That’s a Clean Floor: A Memoir

Naturally, I didn’t get it then.  Rushing around the house, my mother, frazzled as she often was by her eclectic, super-stressful daily life, would sometimes gather us kids to the kitchen door and announce triumphantly, Guardate, non brilla proprio il pavimento?, burstingly proud of having polished the kitchen floor to a sparkling mirror of majolica tiles.  Or after having scrubbed to dazzling the green bathroom. Certo, mamma, bellissimo. Sure, Mom, looks great (do we care?).  Never having been a housewife, but always and only a dedicated teacher, she had little time to do everything else – tpicturehe cooking, cleaning, and usual dreary stuff that one must do to run a household – though it was always accomplished, even if not in an exemplary manner.
But like every woman (and please don’t say ‘not me’ – don’t buy it), she yearned to
have an elegant, spotless home to show off to the world.  There were the crazy cleaning periods, too, I remember.  Not necessarily in spring, but when she had some time or, most likely, the polishing mood struck her.  We were all handed a soft cloth and some kind of concoction (well, actually, my sister and I were regaled with the cleaning supplies, not my brother who, as a male, was not to be bothered with such things.  Okay, she made his bed as long as I remember, while my sister and I had to make our own, and sometimes were told to even take care of his, if mamma didn’t get the chance!). Le maniglie, fatele belle lucide, she would say, polish those door knobs super-shiny, and there we went, starting at one end of the house and finishing at the other, so many damn door knobs we had, slowly (and resentfully) getting rubbed to their original oro antico finish.  Certain things just needed to be done at some point, time or no time, and there was no cleaning woman in sight.  Ever.  Like the mattresses.  Allora, back then, my parents still believed that mattresses (and pillows) filled with wool were the best possible way of sleeping comfortably, thus, every three years, there was a major household chore to be tackled: unstitching the fabric of all the mattresses and pillows, remove all the wool, fluff it up by hand, then replace it in their cloths.  The result was super-airy and soft beds which would stay such for at least a few months (yeah, that’s all).  A task that was indeed monumental.  Done in the balmy summer months (schools closed for all), the bedding was carried out to the balcony and my mother would sigh and begin working on the mattresses, while we children each had to take care of our own pillows, with much whining and complaining.  It consisted of hours and hours of work, and, if there was even a hint of a breeze, it could be detrimental, as it would blow all the painstakingly fluffed wool everywhere!  However, when all the beds were finally light and airy, covered by freshly laundered sheets dried on a line by the fierce Neapolitan sun, smelling like the wind and the sky, a sense of well-being and relief pervaded the household.  So here I am with bucket and mop, washing my kitchen floor the old-fashioned way( the Swiffer doesn’t cut it), sure a pain and a nuisance, and I certainly don’t want to do it, but, hell, it looks so damn good afterward, and yes, children of mine, get down here and take a look at this floor! Pretty shiny, no? Sure, Mom, looks great. Yeah, I know the feeling.


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