NaBloPoMo 2010 Day 3 — Ajax and Cigarettes
I spent several hours at my mom’s house today. She died two months ago. We are still figuring out what to do with all of her belongings. We’ve donated a number of items and likely will donate more. My sisters and I reclaimed a few items from our childhood as well. I visit the house at least weekly to turn on a different set of lights and to check the mail. (I shouldn’t have to check the mail, but the efficient postal service intermittently fails to forward the mail despite my efforts to inform them of where to send it. They must need that extra penny on the stamps to ensure that all the mail gets forwarded.)
Every time I visit the house, I can’t help but wonder what my mom did in the house with her free time — aside from clean it constantly. Growing up, my mother was ridiculously obsessed with maintaining a clean home. In our first house, we had a septic tank in the yard because we lived too far out to be attached to the sewer line. We had to buy yeast packets at the grocery store and flush them down the toilet because my mother cleaned the toilets at least twice a week with that blue powdered Ajax cleaner. With all that cleaner in the septic tank, it wasn’t working properly, so we had to add yeast to it so there was an agent in the tank to break down the waste. Based on the current state of the toilets at her house today, she would be mortified. (Let’s not tell her. It will be our secret.)
The other thing that I cannot help notice when I visit the house is the absence of the stale cigarette smell that so dominated my childhood. My mother was a 50-year smoker. And growing up in the 70s and 80s, it was common for smokers to smoke in the house. To smoke inside everywhere. In the office. In the car. My mother was very common in that sense. Looking back on it, we must have reeked everywhere we went. I understand now why my mother wore so much Chanel No. 5. But that staleness is not present in her house. She became rigid about smoking outside. And her house was the benefactor of that. Her lungs weren’t so lucky in the end.