“Mom, – can I go now?”
She was finishing up washing cloths in the basement. Mom worked during the week packing business forms at Wallace Press so laundry was always done on Saturday morning. “Are you finished with your chores?”
There are two questions I’ll always remember from childhood: Are you finished with your chores. Are you done with your homework? “I polished the stove and icebox. Mary Ellen is still complaining about having to use Clorox in the bathroom toilet. She says it stinks. She thinks she could die from the smell or the germs.”
Mom’s voice became more distinct as she climbed the basement stairs with a load of wash to hang outside on the clothesline. “Never mind what your sister is doing. I asked if you were done with your part?”
“I think so,” I say.
“Well if you’re not sure, then neither am I. Come help me hang these wet sheets and I’ll look when we’re done.”
There is nothing better than sheets dried in the sun. I can close my eyes and picture the sheets attached to the white, taught rope with wooden clothespins. A spring breeze puffs the sheets up like sails allowing my sister and I to wrap ourselves in their whiteness as they flop back to enfold us. But what I remember most is the smell. When I think of a sunny day, I think of that smell.
“Okay, the sheets are done. Let’s go inspect the kitchen young man.”
As we entered the kitchen, my sister was standing in the doorway with hands on her hips. “He didn’t finish the side of the icebox. And I’m not going to do the bathrooms anymore.” She jerked her head and let out a sigh as if she were Cinderella’s step mom bossing me around.
“I did too do the side.”
“I’ll be the judge of whether Timmy is done, and you mind yourself Missy or you’ll do all the cleaning.”
It was always nice for Mom to be on my side, so I flashed my sister a smug smile while shaking my head. I couldn’t say na – na – na- na –na so the look would have to do. Her lips pursed into a tight wrinkled line. She got the message.
Mom rubbed her hand over the stove’s white porcelain and then moved to the icebox. She ran her hands across it and looked at it from a number of angles. Finally she spoke. “It looks done to me. Doesn’t the house smell clean?”
It did smell clean: Clorox scrubbed toilets, end tables and coffee table shinning with Old English Furniture Polish, the icebox sparking with a fresh coat of Jubilee Appliance Wax, and of course, soft sheets dried in the sun.