Sandra Tsing Loh does some housework... and it takes a long time.
I'm a working mother who does housework in sprints. Rather than on a daily, 48-hour - or even weekly - basis, activities like washing dishes, doing laundry, and shopping for groceries happen on more of a tidal schedule. It's one of the reasons I have a standalone freezer that houses things like frozen veggies, bread, and even milk. It's one of the reasons that when rare piles of clean laundry appear on my girls' beds, it's almost like Christmas. "Oh look!" my 12-year-old will exclaim, with a shock of recognition. "My flowered jeans! That I got when I was 10."
But come summer, you can't fake it any more. Why? Because of the insects. Oh yes. Recently, we came home from a weekend away. We no sooner stepped into the kitchen than we all began flailing our arms, not just to ward off flies but fruit flies, small clouds of which would come at you like mist. "You see?" I said. "That's what happens when I BUY fresh produce!" I dispatched my screaming tween daughters to their rooms - their piercing shrieks almost as annoying as fruit flies - and faced the kitchen with my own shock of recognition. "Oh yes - my kitchen - I remember this place."
Having just finished a book, though, I was ready for this project. The first thing I did was clean out the fridge - every shelf and drawer, taking out each and handwashing it - which took, I kid you not, six hours. Then, I went through the various cabinets and bowls and even an antique breadbox. "Oh yeah," my older daughter said, "That's where Suzy keeps her Halloween candy." Fascinating! It was like going on an archaeological dig and discovering a tribe's hitherto-unknown secret habits. Apparently, my partner Charles is given to taking the remains of a salad, nestling it into a Jiffylock bag, and tucking it away in odd-numbered shelves - one, three and five, seven. My older daughter Maddy keeps buying the same flavor of cupcake-flavored Magic Shell syrup, and finishing the ends of group chocolate bars, but nostalgically leaving behind piles of their empty silvery sleeves. I leave less behind only because I'm more given to stealing the food of others - if while driving home from school, my older daughter slips a croissant out of the Costco 15-pack, I always insist on a tax of the foot, with the belief that if it's hers it doesn't "count."
Even when I had marched all of the food out of the kitchen and onto the back porch, however, fruit flies still greeted me - from water glasses, dish towels, and even weird places like the empty sink. Gross! I was going to have to get Medieval!
Next week: YouTube to the rescue!