When I was a little girl growing up in Texas, most of my friends families had "help". As in "The Help". As in a woman hired to come over and clean your house for you. When I was little, these women were usually black, but by the late-seventies the maid was usually Hispanic. Never a white woman. It was a cultural thing, I will try not to place a judgment on it. Most "maids" came once or twice a week. Kaysie's family had a long-time and much beloved maid who worked full time.
My family? No. The help was Mama. And so the cleanliness level our house was never anything close to that achieved by "help". Kaysie's house was pristine. Perfect, always. Every corner dedustbunnied, every sheet and towel freshly laundered and neatly folded, all clothes perfectly ironed, the kitchen and bathrooms bleached, the wooden surfaces and good silver shined so you could see your reflexion. It was a beautiful thing. A life of beauty and privilege. A life that I dreamed of, aspired to. Of course, I never thought about how hard these housekeepers must have worked, or what their lives must have been like. But that's another post.
So why have I never had a housekeeper? Well...broke. Those of you non-Californians should know that "help" in Los Angeles is relatively inexpensive. I mean it's, dare I say, affordable. But not affordable to occasionally employed actors. If you're gonna commit to paying somebody on a regular basis, you'd better be confident that you'll have the cash.
But the community we have joined through Jude's school? Everybody has "help". Well, not everybody everybody, but pretty much everybody. I'd say...90 percent of Jude's friends have a housekeeper. Some come daily, some twice a week. These homes are things of beauty and order. And the women who live in these homes have excellent manicures because their hands are not always in toilets, and excellent figures because they have time for things like...tennis. Many of these women have never experienced life without "help". Imagine such a thing.
However, I had resigned myself to a life of semi-squallor of my own making.
Then one day, my friend Lynn called and told me that she had found a housekeeper through our church. She wanted to know if I wanted to split her. As in, she would work for Lynn two days a month, and I would take the other two. So...she would come to us every other week. I thought, I pondered, I imagined a home filled with beauty and order. I went for it.
And so Rosa has entered our lives.
I have to admit, that having someone clean your house twice a month is not enough to achieve beauty and order. It is, however, a damned nice thing, and makes my life immeasurably easier. She doesn't have time to do the laundry, or sort through the drawers, but I am now able to keep our house fairly tidy, just knowing that every other week, someone will come and do all the deep cleaning - vacuuming behind and underneath stuff, dusting all the everythings, scrubbing all the corners.
My favorite thing to do is to leave about two hours before Rosa has finished and come back after she's gone. I walk into the house and just inhale the clean. Aaaaaaaaah! Clean! And my fingernails are intact and I don't stink like bleach and Pine-Sol! Happy, happy, joy, joy.
It has been an interesting adjustment for us non-"help" people. I still find myself cleaning the house for the housekeeper. Which Jimmy thinks is ridiculous, but I know is not. First of all, if I just leave all our junk everywhere willy-nilly, then Rosa is gonna have to spend all of her time tidying, when I'd rather have her spend that time scrubbing. Plus, she doesn't really know where everything belongs, and therefore many things are "Rosaed". As in, put away where Rosa thinks they should go, not where I think they should go.
For months, Jude was actually afraid of Rosa. He was horrified about what she must think of him. The idea of a stranger coming into our house and cleaning up his mess was terribly embarrassing to him. Though not embarrassing enough for him to keep his room cleaner. Ugh.
I have to admit that it's taken me a while to know how to behave with her. First of all, I've never had an employee before. I feel weird telling her what to do. And it's hard to get used to having someone else all in your stuff, you know? I mean, since she doesn't do laundry, she's not all intimate with my intimates, but she is scrubbing our toilets, and possibly counting the empty wine bottles in the recycling.
But we've managed to kind of become friends. Her English is poor, and my Spanish is even worse, but we manage to share about our families and our days. Since we go to the same church we have that in common, and it makes me more comfortable having her around and we have things to talk and gossip about. She's a comfort. Weird, right? But she really is. She's a constant comfort who appears and Mary Poppins everything and doesn't judge me and makes my world better. And I pay her. Which is doing her a favor too. So it's all good.
Oh, and please don't mention this to Mommy or Aunt Grace. For old-school Italian-Americans like them, paying a stranger to come to your house and clean for you is a sign of abject failure as a housekeeper. They would consider this ridiculously indulgent and lazy of me. But I don't care.
It's nice to have a little help.