1/23/08

My Grandmother and her housekeeper

Reading every one's posts and entries has made me think about my upbringing, my family, and their stand on housework. My parents are from the same small town, but when you get right down to it, they could have been raised thousands of miles apart. My Mothers family has had "money" right down the line, my Fathers-not so much.
My paternal Grandparents met and married in less than a week, had 5 children and lived in a trailer (happily) for years. She was not a housekeeper by any standard- but then, she had 3 boys, 2 girls, a husband who worked as a tree trimmer and she herself worked everyday of her life (she was a seamstress who sewed clothes and straight jackets for the state hospital). Their house was always unkempt and kind of sticky. We were never allowed to eat at her house because she left all sorts of food out on the table for hours (and hours and hours) and my Mom -being a nurse-did not want us to get food poisoning. But this post is not about them...

My maternal Grandmother was a woman that expected and demanded an immaculate house. She went to college, but never really worked outside of the home. She worked during ww2 because she had to, but that was it. Her house was everything. And yet, she never allowed anyone to come over to see it. The place was a showcase (she would redecorate every year or so) but only the family saw it. Don't take this the wrong way- she went out, she saw people. She was not agoraphobic or anything. She just didn't want people over to her house.
This was the funny thing about my Grandma though... she had this housekeeper who wasn't really all there. I can't remember what exactly was wrong with her, but I am sure my Grandmother hired her just as a means to provide for this woman's family without it looking like charity. But because this woman was incapable of actually doing the level of work that my Grandmother felt was necessary- she cleaned the house herself before the housekeeper arrived. And not just her, when I came to visit I too had to clean the house before the housekeeper arrived. I remember when I was about 13 or so I asked why I was making the beds and vacuuming the floor before Joyce (the housekeeper) came. She sat me down and told me that she didn't want anyone seeing any mess in her house- even the housekeeper. My Grandpa was the one who told me about Joyce's family and why Joyce worked for them. And when they passed away, it was the community who told us about how much charity my Grandmother had provided throughout the years- often anonymously.
My Grandmother thought that making the world a better, nicer and cleaner place to live was her job, and she tried to pass that down to my Mom and her sister. It didn't really work, but it was a nice thought.
She would be very pleased with me though......

5 comments:

Mella DP said...

I'm curious, why didn't she want people (besides family) in the house? Did she just not enjoy entertaining, or was it something else?

Alana in Canada said...

Interesting. Intensely private and house proud. I can relate:I'm not really all that anxiuos to throw my doors open, either. Still, she sounds like a caring and compassionate woman.

lorijo said...

She was a very private person. When they wintered in Florida though I know she had people over to the rental, so it must have been something about her private space. I don't honestly know though.

scb said...

Maybe because people tend to mess things up? I worked in a college many years ago, (a different one to the one I work in now), and the librarian (who had retired three times, and kept coming back) didn't like students coming in to the library and messing up the books, taking them off the shelves...

lorijo said...

I remember that she had this fabulous dark green velvet sofa and whenever we came to visit she threw a sheet on it. Apparently I was always offended by that as a kid. Funny thing was, when she got tired of it she gave it to my Mom. The minute it came into our house, we slept on it, ate on it, and the dog was on it 24/7!