Too clean. My mother spent hours raising the scent of Comet throughout the house. Her eyes squinted and her mouth frowned in a face that reminded me of all the times she had scolded me for sloth. I feared this visage and hid from it because it was accompanied by a litany of things I should have been doing if I was a good son. No one was ever tired except for her even though I had spent the long day in an un-air-conditioned school and walking a mile over a steep hill in the heat twice a day. When I did volunteer — or when I was pressed into service — she did not find my work up to standard. If I left a hardened speck unscrubbed by the steel wool, she scolded me for laziness and made me spend minutes or hours getting it right. And there was always another spot.
I did not like the kitchen. The refrigerator was filled with apples that were never sweet and blackened bananas. The vegetables she cooked came out of white boxes which were solid to the core with ice and they tasted bland. She cooked pork chops until they were little more than carbon attached to bones. Steaks suffered the same fate. I could never have my meat medium rare as I liked it — it always had to be well done. Her dreams were filled with tapeworms crawling in our guts, hookworms wiggling into our brains. She feared parasites and salmonella but she never feared damaging me with her harsh words, impossible tasks, and her accusations of sloth and laziness.
And I became what she wanted over the years, what she saw, and I married a wife who did not like to clean. We ended up hiring a maid to help us once a week. But I still spend time cleaning a little in advance, so that the maid does not see that I am a slob.
This was an exercise from Writing Through the Darkness by Elizabeth Maynard Schaeffer. I lead a group which is working its way through that book at the South County Wellness Center, 23072 Lake Center Drive, Suite #115, Lake Forest, California 92630.