Cleaning Up With Good Memories

I’ve been thinking a lot about my parents lately. They have both been gone for more than five years so I’ve passed the gut punch mourning period that is filled with longing for just one more hug, laugh or words of sage advice.

It’s weird what will trigger thoughts of my parents. I’m also embarrassed to admit that for me it’s smells, specifically cleaning supplies. When I catch a whiff of starch or bleach, I think of my mom. The woman was a whirling dervish in regard to the domestic arts. For her love was expressed through a spotless home and a dinner that always included dessert.

She used to tell me that “dirty baseboards signaled a lack of character.” To this day I get on my hands and knees and clean my baseboards with a toothbrush because apparently that’s my family legacy. (As a side note I think this legacy is going to stop with my children. To date they’ve both expressed zero interest in the fine art of baseboard scrubbing with an Oral B toothbrush.)

I know this devotion to cleanliness was passed down from my grandmother and is rooted in living in a coal mining community in West Virginia. My mom told me that the women fought to keep the coal dust out of their homes. Apparently, the ultimate status symbol was a house that belied the fact your spouse worked in the mines.

As a child the smell of bleach was comforting. It not only meant my mother was home. It also meant all was right with the world.

My parents were well matched in their love of chores. My dad spent summer weekends standing or treading water (while wearing a very on trend bucket hat) in our family pool scrubbing the white part of the deck and pool liner with SOS pads. (Note: This predates the wonder that is the Magic Eraser.)

All my friends thought this was hysterical and they enjoyed teasing my dad about his quest for pool perfection. Little did I know at the time that my dad eavesdropped on everything we talked about and then would report back to my mother (verbatim) on our conversations. Looking back this explains so much about how it always felt like my parents had gotten inside my head.

My father was also obsessed with keeping his cars clean. Every Saturday, weather permitting, he would wash all the family cars by hand using special sponges and his own secret mix of a cleaning solution that involved a splash of vinegar. Once a month he would also wax the cars and I was his faithful helper.

The reward for being my dad’s “crackerjack assistant” was a trip in the clean car to the gas station down the road for an Orange Crush where we would clink the glass bottles and toast our hard work. Today even the slightest scent of Turtle Wax makes me smile.

Happily, my dad’s spirit lives on in my son. He’s a car cleaning fiend. Every time I see him waxing his cars I tell him that he’s making his grandfather proud. He even indulges me and doesn’t seem to mind when I stick my entire face in his canister of car wax.

This past weekend I went out and refreshed my cache of cleaning supplies. When I walked in with bleach, SOS pads, new sponges, window cleaner, paste wax and a bevy of other scrubbing goodies my husband looked at me and asked if I was planning on starting a janitorial service.

I told him no and confessed that I was just missing my parents and needed to smell them again. Then I started cleaning. Starting, of course, with the baseboards.

📚 Need a fun read (new audiobook is just out 🎧)) that is totally fiction but has just enough flavor of my real life mom and dad to make it laugh worthy? Then check out my book Trouble in Texas. 🇨🇱 Say hello to Southern mayhem, meddling mamas, BFF payback, revenge and cupcakes – lots of cupcakes. 🧁 🧁 🧁

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