I had recently accepted a freelance writing job, and on top of the part-time teaching job, care and keeping of two normal, healthy little boys, and one severely disabled older boy, things were getting left by the wayside. The pink mold ring slowly expanding in the toilet bowls was stressing me out. Dust was accumulating on the constantly rotating fans staving off the blistering Florida summer heat and sending off colonizing dust bunnies. There was black gunk on the sprayer for the kitchen faucet whose presence offended me. I was aware of all of these things but unable to do anything about them. My days were spent attending to infinite needs: A kindergartener adjusting to the rules and routines of a new school. A 3-year-old on the cusp of potty training. An eight-year-old with the developmental equivalency of a 6-month-old demanded my constant vigilance — doctor’s appointments to be kept, therapy schedules to be arranged, in-home nurses to be consulted, battles with the school system about his special education to be fought. My students’ whiny emails were answered in short bursts during episodes of “Super Why” and writing was pounded out after bedtime. I was drowning.
I researched professional cleaning companies and sought out references for private housekeepers from friends. I compared costs and pondered having yet another stranger invade my personal space on a regular basis. Finally, I settled on two housekeepers who came highly recommended. I scheduled each to come to my home to survey the wreckage and give me an estimate of their charges. Suzy was lauded in glowing terms, and Holly was described as “anal and meticulous.” How could I choose?
Suzy made a brief tour of our living room, family room, and bathrooms, discussed the supplies she would need, and quoted me a price as we made our way to the bedrooms. When we opened the door to Ethan’s bedroom, she balked. ”Can I clean in there?” ”Of course,” I assured her. ”Just ask the nurse to move him to the other room so that you can vacuum and dust. His room is pretty tidy — you won’t need to do much.” She turned from the room, clearly uncomfortable with the prospect.
The next day, I opened the door to Holly, clad in a tube top, with a 3-year-old in tow. I shook her hand with my traditional returned-missionary-style handshake, and she answered back with a hand that was strong and warm. She surveyed my home. I, embarrassedly showing her the grout in my shower, black with mildew, she commiserating on the woes of potty training. ”I won’t lie to you — it’s a big job.” Her price was higher than Suzy’s quote. I hesitated as I showed her Ethan’s room, giving her a brief explanation of his condition. ”Hi Ethan! It’s nice to meet you!” She knelt at his side, taking his hand in hers and kissing it. Turning to me she said, “I have a nephew with hydrocephaly and spina bifida,” then turning to Ethan, she asked,”Can I come and clean your room?” Ethan smiled, groaned his happy groan, his sightless eyes turning in the direction of her voice.