As no one could really guess from such a period of radio silence, I have moved out of the household of my parents and into an apartment with Thalia. This, I suppose, ought to have been broadcast earlier, possibly via a Public Service Announcement (because really, the world deserves some warning, me thenken).
So this advice will have to serve: Be warned, my messmates, that Thalia and Terpsichore have joined forces, bringing their qualities and characters and books together into close quarters. After having lived there a month without posting a word, I hardly can say that it makes us better at writing as of yet – but it sure gives us ideas, each generally sillier than the last. Expect to hear of our multitudinous, if humble, triumphs, in keeping of house and self.
This business of housekeeping seems to bring my father to mind quite often. Having but one father at this point, I cannot say whether they all deal in maxims or other concentrated bits of Fatherly Wisdom, but mine certainly does. Allow me to recount some things my dad says:
Don’t watch the ads, children! [lest we think we needed something we merely wanted]
Leave a 28-inch aisle. Get that out of the walkpath! [It remains to be seen how deeply this has penetrated my subconscious. At least one of my brothers has reported how a walkpath strewn with stuff bothered him while in college because he’d grown used to a wider aisle.]
Charm is when a girl makes it seem and you and she’ve got something good going together. [Dad’s views on women he dated still make me raise an eyebrow]
Yeah, kittens are cute…the only thing wrong with them is they grow up to be cats. [Once Dad was petting a kitten at my grandparents’ house. It sunk all its claws and teeth into his hand. His efforts to shake it off were unsuccessful. He never liked kittens as much after that.]
What is the fourth commandment? [I can’t even say how many times he’s asked his children this.]
Money is power. [All my classmates were horrified to hear that I didn’t get an allowance, but did receive money for doing household tasks and bringing home excellent report cards. Terrible indeed, especially that bit where my grades were the top of the class. That seemed to shock my psychology teacher as well.]
So you can choose to use that power now, a little at a time, or you can choose to hold on to it. [I elected to save all through grade school and high school. I was a parsimonious little hoyden who collected hundred-dollar bills back then. My collection had 12 or 13 at its zenith.]
Since it takes time to earn money, you should figure how many hours you’d have to work to buy that….and then consider: is it worth that many hours or days of work? [He directed this question toward my brothers when they elected to buy an S-NES, an N-64, and whatever came after that]
You should always put the date on these [whether “these” meant a birthday card for him, a picture, an invoice, a piece of schoolwork, or anything else that we might conceivably put in chronological order someday].
Where’s your invoice? [I learned early that one does not get paid without an invoice. Ours usually said INVOICE in big letters across the top; detailed what work had been done, for how long, and at what hourly rate; totaled what amount was due; and at the bottom, we signed and dated it for the sake of everyone’s records. Work done on ladders automatically fetched two dollars more per hour since it was more dangerous.]
See, when you grow up, you can be the head of the company! [which I recall him saying as I carted Legos around the house in a red Lego briefcase of sorts. Dad was always big on briefcases. I was always big on Legos.]
There were three young men in Toastmasters, and they stuck together. They learned how to speak and helped each other out. Sometimes two of them would have to pull the third along. But together they rose through the ranks, and when one of them got a job offer, he asked whether there were any position for the second fellow. And when the second fellow got a job offer, he inquired into whether there were a position for the third friend. So look to see who your fellows might be, and see who you can stick together with. [This one hasn’t really benefited me yet, but there was a time when I walked in on the end and noted “That sounds a lot like your Toastmasters story!” only to find that it was.]
Anyway, the maxim that’s hit closest to home this week runs something like “It’s not just the time you spend to earn money to buy something; it’s how much time you spend on that thing thereafter.” How much maintenance does it take to keep up? What kind of time or money do you have to put into it to keep it nice?
I think he was commenting, for the most part, on small and somewhat fussy chattel – the impossibly fiddly machinery, the handwash-only clothing, the things which at the very least must find a place where they can be put away (which I rarely, if ever, found for everything, much to his chagrin). But it applies to most all possessions, from cars to houses to entertainment opportunities to the other hundred thousand things on which one might spend one’s money, and thereby spend all one’s working hours. Others have said it, perhaps more forcefully or beautifully, but Dad’s having said it imparts a weight which no home organization consultant or any goods-forsaking nomad could give.
It’s been percolating through my brain as I packed my possessions, as I wrestled them into vehicles and up stairways and finally into their places; as I make my bed (careful, now, to shut the cat from the room, lest she sprawl out beneath the flat sheet); as Thalia and I cook, do dishes, arrange our schedules, do laundry, put things back into their places and contemplate what else we may lack. Somehow, while living with my parents, I’d forgotten how much work my stuff can be!
Sometimes I think that I cannot be entrusted with the possessions I already have, for it is so easy for them to sit untouched. When I finally pick them back up, I hardly know what to do with them, especially when they are papers full of recipes I’d like to try, of numbers I wrote down figuring they’d come in useful, of projects I wanted to tackle, of other people’s thoughts I wanted to wrestle and digest and synthesize anew. Papers are, for me, the most dangerous and difficult possessions, for there never seems to be an effective means of corralling them and finally maintaining them. Even the cries of “Scan them into your computer and don’t worry about them” do not help, for spatial concerns comprise only half the matter; the other half of my anxiety is that niggling What was the thing I once swore to myself I would do?
Sometimes I can say “Fret not; it’ll come back to you.”
Sometimes I sit wondering what I forgot.