For the past two months, my parents have been zooming around in their little, red sedan on some sort of “Oh, Screw It, We’re Retired” road trip. And now, after crisscrossing the country and visiting every tourist attraction from North Dakota to New Orleans, they’re here. In Austin. At my house. For three weeks.
Because while I love my parents dearly, I’m freaked out big time that they’re staying in my home. Not because they’re demanding guests or anything like that. They’re not at all. In fact, besides their bizarre devotion to “According to Jim” and Cheez-Its, they’re great to have around. No, the real reason I’m a nervous wreck is because I want them to finally see that, at age 40, I’m fully capable of running a household. All by myself.
My lack of domestic ability has been the big family joke for most of my life. Every time I’ve moved into a new house or apartment, my parents’ favorite thing to do is to ask whether my new stove is gas or electric, then laugh their heads off when I don’t know the answer. (Once, I didn’t even know where the stove was.) My mother patiently taught me all of the household things she herself did so effortlessly, but for some reason, it didn’t take. I tried sewing and pinned my garment to the floor. I tried craft making and maimed myself with a pipe cleaner. I tried making smoothies and forgot to put the lid on the blender. And of course, my cooking is so disastrous that it’s already sent me to the emergency room. Twice.
Basically, I’m Susie Homemaker with a head injury.
That’s why, when my parents said they were visiting, I decided it was time to turn over a new leaf. Time to get my shit together and embrace my inner housefrau. After all, how hard could this homemaking crap be? I’m smart. I’m educated. I’m not usually that drunk during the day. And so began my intense campaign of wiping, scrubbing and organizing absolutely everything in our four-bedroom house. After five days, I was exhausted and my hands looked like they belonged to an arthritic, 80 year-old cannery worker. But my house, my house was immaculate. Not even a crack CSI team with a boatload of black lights could have found a single, lousy fingerprint. I was ready.
My parents arrived and everything was going well. They seemed impressed with the new management and even complimented me on my matching towels and the non-expired milk in the fridge. But it wasn’t long before my mom asked me, somewhat dubiously, if I had an ironing board she could use. Now, of course, if my husband ever had the balls to ask me to iron one of his shirts, I’d be laughing too hard to throw the dry cleaning coupons at him, but I'd prepared for this moment. “Why, of course I have an ironing board!” I happily chirped, and skipped over to the broom closet where I pulled out my newly purchased ironing board with a flourish. “I keep it right here, so I can get to it easily when I need to press my cloth napkins!” Then I casually leaned over and, with one finger, whipped the sucker open just like I was one of the aging showcase models on The Price is Right. "Ta-da!"
My mom looked at the ironing board and seemed a little surprised. And, I think, a little proud, too. Like maybe her daughter wasn’t going to burn the house down after all. I smiled smugly and made a mental note to check out Craigslist later, just in case Martha Stewart was hiring slightly chubby household experts in our area.
Then suddenly, Jack bombed into the room, took one look at the ironing board and yelled at the top of his lungs, “WHAT THE HECK’S THAT THING, MOMMY?”
I glanced sideways at my mom and chuckled nervously. “Oh, come on, silly! That’s the ironing board! You know that!”
He walked up and gingerly touched it, then quickly pulled back his hand and screamed,“No, I’ve NEVER seen THAT thing before!”
My mom was now covering her mouth with her hands and it looked like her entire body had begun to shake, but I tried my best to ignore her. “Sure you have, Jack!” I persisted. “You know mommy uses this when she irons out the wrinkles in your clothes!”
He looked down at his khaki pants. “But I thought you said that wrinkles make our clothes more interesting and that if we have a problem with it, mister, we can just go stand in the bathroom when daddy’s taking a shower or something.”
Raising my voice so I could be heard over the little squeaks that were now coming out of my mom, I gave him a stern look and said, “No, I didn’t Jack. Do...you...understand?”
“OK, whatever, lady,” he muttered, then walked out of the room shaking his head like somebody who's desperately counting the days until he turns 18.
“Sorry about that, mom!” I said, as she dabbed frantically at her eyes. “I don’t know WHY he said that. But you know how whacko 5 year-olds are! I mean, he still thinks chickens can talk! Now, would you like some spray starch or would you prefer to use just plain water? Personally, I find that starch works much better on permanent press, but…”
And then 7 year-old Sam ran into the room, stopped dead in his tracks and, pointing at my brand-new, shiny ironing board, screamed, “Wow! What’s THAT thing? A surfboard on legs? Did Grandma bring it here? Can I RIDE on it?” And at that moment, as I watched my belly-laughing mom gasp for air, I realized that I'm probably never going to become a domestic goddess. Or a domestic wenchess. Or even someone who actually keeps vegetables in their vegetable crisper. So that's why I've decided to turn in my featherduster and just go ahead and buy another fire extinguisher, already. I think it's for the best.
But, just for the record, I'm pretty sure my stove is electric.