Dena & Carrie

If left to my own motivation at this stage in life—late-50’s, children grown, empty nesting—I would not clean my home. Okay, okay . . . I probably would, but I wouldn’t be happy about it.

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m a diva who grew up with housekeepers. (Actually, I did grow up with a housekeeper—my mother, but she could get snippy and call me things like lazy and ungrateful.)

I’m a professional woman with a demanding job who likes to spend her precious free time doing things (anything) other than cleaning the house.

For the past 12 years, I’ve been able to afford the luxury of hiring someone to clean our home every two weeks. Not just any someone, but two noteworthy women: Dena and Carrie.

If Dena were to write a tell-all book about us, I imagine it would end with: “They were a disaster before me.”

She’d be right.

It was Dena who took me into the living room one day, pointed to the disarray of the television/video gaming area, ripped the veil of denial from my face, and asked, “Doesn’t this bother you?”

“Now that you mention it—”

“You need to buy an entertainment center and get this crap organized.”

Two weeks later, an entertainment center was purchased, installed, and proudly shown to Dena.

“It’s about freaking time!”

When our vacuum cleaner started its slow death, I encouraged Dena to squeeze a few more rounds out of it. A month later, she stuck her head in my home office and said, “Buy a new freaking vacuum cleaner.” I waited until the day before she arrived. When she came through the door, I announced, “I bought a freaking vacuum cleaner.” She said, “It’s about freaking time!”

A few weeks before our son left for college, Dena volunteered to help him organize his bedroom and pack. A week later, she walked up the stairs, saw the expanse of clutter covering his floor, and yelled, “I’m going to freaking kill him!” (Unlike us, she did not cry when he left home.)

When Harrison came home for his winter break from college, she said, “I hope your dorm room is cleaner than your bedroom was when you lived here.” He said, “It’s not.”

She shook her head in disgust as our teenager got off the sofa, walked across the room and wrapped her in a hug. “I’ve missed you, Dena.”

When she grew tired of trying to shape us up, she moved to Lake County. Before leaving, she introduced us to Carrie.

If Carrie ever decides to write a tell-all book about us, I hope she’ll end it with: “I’ve seen worse.” (Since we’ve never allowed her access to the garage, this is likely true.)

Unlike Dena, Carrie doesn’t seem to mind that we neglect things. This is good in the sense that we know she won’t scold us into dealing with it; and bad because apparently we only take action when scolded.

A stack of knitting projects grows under an end table. The upstairs remains a storage unit for much of our kids’ stuff (they have been gone from home for five and eight years.) My sewing room is a mess of tossed fabric. A do-it-yourself bathroom project is going into its second year of non-completion. And what’s that bag of stuff sitting next to the fireplace?

Dena would not have tolerated any of this.

For years, we happily looked forward to the arrival of either of our housekeepers every two weeks. Last year, something terrible happened: Carrie took a full time job at a local restaurant.

I was despondent. I didn’t want to hire another housekeeper. I wanted Dena or Carrie. Three weeks went by. Our world turned to a dull shade of gray as dust grew to a measurable thickness on every surface, and dog hair swirled like flakes in a snow globe. Finally, we put on our N100 Disposable Respirator Masks (available at Matson Building Materials) and started cleaning.

For 10 months, cleaning day was cause for Gary and me to whine and snipe at each other. Then Carrie called to say she wanted to supplement her income and asked if we still needed a housekeeper. I would have thrown confetti and popped champagne, but I would have had to clean it up.

[A note to Carrie’s family: You can take down the Missing Person fliers. She’s doing fine living in a soundproof room in our attic. She’s allowed out once every two weeks to clean the house. We can’t take a chance on her leaving us again.]

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