Our son, James, has shown some disturbing qualities, and I blame my husband, Patrick, who has been his stepfather since 1991.
Let me explain.
The other day we were talking with James, and he mentioned that he and his wife were hiring someone to do some ‘deep cleaning’ for them.
My reaction was, “Deep cleaning? Is that even a thing?”
James explained that with parenting two small children and busy schedules, they couldn’t get to all the sticky smudges and hidden crevices during routine cleaning.
I was baffled, but Patrick nodded, and joined the conversation with animation. “You mean like under the couch? And the overhead fans? And the shower?”
James got excited. “Yes, and cupboards, the refrigerator, and the baseboards!”
I responded, “Wait a minute. I can’t see the overhead fans because they are too high. I don’t look under the couch unless I can’t find my corkscrew. And if I splatter something on the cupboard or refrigerator, I wipe it off. As for baseboards, they are always slightly blurry, since they are just at the right angle to view through that sweet spot in my progressive lenses known as ‘blissful denial.’
I never wear my glasses in the shower, so I can’t see mold or soap scum. And who am I to disturb this delicate eco-environment? My priority is getting in and out of that hygienic death trap without breaking a hip.”
When I realized I was talking to myself, and Patrick and James had moved on to a discourse about vacuuming radiators, I saw the magnitude of the issue.
How could a son, born to a mother bearing the title “Queen of Superficial Cleaning,” concern himself with deep cleaning and dust free radiators?
Where did I go wrong?
My version of a wall growth chart was measuring how high the handprints and boogers were from the floor. And I named our dust bunnies so they were like family pets.
I thought back on times when Patrick had shown James the proper way to remove stains from the coffeepot, the value of running the toothbrush cup through a dishwasher cycle, and moving furniture when vacuuming.
That’s when it hit me.
It’s all Patrick’s fault. He’s passed his neatness and thorough cleaning habits on to the next generation, solving the mystery once and for all.
Much to my deep chagrin, I finally realize it is nurture not nature that determines the clean ‘gene.’
*Author’s note: I entered this essay in the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition sponsored every two years by the Washington-Centerville Pubic Library in Centerville, Ohio. This year there were 563 writers from around the world who entered previously unpublished essays in humor and human interest categories. I was thrilled to qualify for the final round. Earlier this month I attended the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop in Dayton, Ohio where I learned it is never too late to pursue your dreams.