There it was. I was caught red-handed and couldn’t lie my way out.
What was I doing? Ummm. Something I swore I would never do. But my co-worker walked in and saw me. Carefully taking a napkin around the rim of a Tabasco bottle. Cleaning the lid of the condiment.
WHY?! I ask myself the same question.
In my childhood’s household, using the ketchup meant wiping the ketchup lid afterward; every time. Taking a shower meant drying the shower walls. No water spots! I came to loathe showers and baths. Towels had to be precisely hung, a la Sleeping with the Enemy perfectionism, equally folded to the same width and length as the other towels on the rack. Beds could not be left unmade. Don’t dare come to the front room to watch cartoons or get some cereal on Saturday morning beds are uniformly made and faces uniformly cleaned.
I may have grown up in the military without enlisting.
Still, today…the Tabasco bottle needed it, I tell myself. I had just swiped it from the cafeteria and it had dried black gook (very definitely the right word) around it.
But there I was – doing the very thing I grew up swearing never. never. never. NEVER will I have rules about hanging towels. I don’t wash out the tub after every shower. Ask my horrified family! When visitors come, I divert attention with a pretty (and closed) shower curtain – problem solved! My condiment bottles get clean lids when I throw away the old bottles and buy new ones. Hell, we go through ketchup like there’s no tomorrow, always a steady stream at the ready. There’s no time to clean it off; I’m lucky to get the table cleared before we’re on to the next thing.
At an early age, I knew that we had lots of rules in my house. Rules about what days we could eat burgers (Friday or Saturday), drink pop (only burgers or spaghetti, i.e. the appropriate kind of dinner for pop), or have cookies (never, because those are for lunches). Rules about how clothes had to be folded, cars parked, and where to put mail. I guess you could say my parents were creatures of habit. Rules about placemats that needed to be wiped clean after eating and stored out of sight. Rules about dishes that needed to be washed immediately after dinner was finished; dried and then the drainer wiped, dried and hidden beneath the sink. More rules about not sitting in the middle of the couch or the edge of a couch cushion, so we wouldn’t wear the pillows down in the same spot. Ice cream every other night.
But I am not my mother.
I am my mother.
She snuck in on me when I wasn’t looking; I admit that I like things done a certain way, and somehow that became the right way.
When my kids were little kids, it was my responsibility to clean up everything, so there was no one to detour from ‘my way’. Now that the kids are teenagers and trying to form their own habits, we’re arguing about where IS the right place for mail…the kitchen table or dropped on the side table by the door? Or maybe in the chair, depending on whether a Seventeen magazine has arrived or not. Where do my keys go? Where do their keys go? Why do we pick up everything (and I do mean everything) before we go to bed? No loose papers, no socks, nothing out-of-place. Fold clothes as soon as they’re out of the dryer. Better yet, hang the still-warm clothes as they’re singularly taken from the laundry basket, to minimize wrinkles. Point the silverware down in the dishwasher. Vacuum the closet! (WHAT?!!!) Without realizing it, I got my first mommie dearest clue in Life’s Lesson #23.
Note to self: Relax