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KEEPING HOUSE
Did you play House when you were a child? I did. I don't remember it as well as playing School, though. THAT was fun. Gathering pencils and papers and rulers and making little exercise pages for my sister and brother to do, and throwing chalk at them when they misbehaved (not really, the chalk part, I mean).

My sister and I had Dawn dolls and Barbies, and while we played with them, even the bendable Barbie whose leg had been chewed halfway up by Thumper, Sarah's black and white rabbit, so that the bendy white plastic part stuck out from the chewed rubber "flesh" of her leg, JUST LIKE BONE, our favorite thing to do, or at least MY favorite thing to do, was set up their houses. We had groovy Sixties molded plastic doll furniture in translucent colors. We would use the tops of our desks and our bookshelves as apartment spaces and we would very seriously set up their houses with all kinds of ordinary, everyday objects standing in for doll's accessories. One time, we set up each doll space in a different color, so that everything in one "room" was red, and everything in another was blue, and so on. I remember that we used red Fruit Loops for donuts in the red room.

My siblings and I all had chores, and the responsibilities grew as we did. Because there were 3 of us, we took turns rotating the table chores; one set the table, one cleared it and put food away and one washed the dishes. I know that we were given other cleaning tasks from the job jar or when Mom was in a cleaning mode, like 409-ing the doors and lightswitches and keeping our rooms clean, which we were more or less successful at. My sister and I would sometimes get up after everyone was asleep and play Brownies, which we must have read about in a children's book somewhere. We would pick up the house as a surprise for my mother upon her awakening the next day. I suspect that this didn't happen very often because it stands out so clearly in my memory, but at least our hearts were in the right places, right Mom? :D

Even though we did our share of cleaning chores growing up, it wasn't until I worked on the summer cleaning crew of the dormitory on campus my sophomore year in college that I considered myself really well-trained in cleaning. If you can succeed in cleaning the bathrooms of the men's dormitory after they've been shut up for 3 hot summer weeks, you can succeed at cleaning ANYTHING. The mold that grew during those weeks before we got in there was truly of awesome proportions: white foamy scum with black dots. Tilex was our weapon of choice and in the particularly bad bathrooms, I would hose the walls with Tilex, shut the door and go out to do some easier jobs in the rest of the rooms. Upon my return half an hour later, the mold was easily flushed away with a few vigorous sprays of the showerhead. Didn't even have to get out my rubber gloves! Tilex, by the way, is not allowed in Sweden, because of its toxic chemical makeup, and on occasion its reaction with the mold would set off sulphur-like fumes that would choke a horse. But! The bathrooms got CLEAN, by gum!

This weekend was 2 long days of serious beat-the-rugs spring cleaning. Today, Anders' mom came over to help mop the floors after I went through dusting and vacuuming ahead of her. We also showered and repotted all the houseplants, and I changed out my winter wardrobe for my warm weather stuff, managing to fill a bag and a half for Goodwill in the process. By the end of the day, my feet were hurting, and when Anders and the kids got home I made some small noise about the fact that it was Mother's Day in the States and then when I suggested sushi at the excellent new sushi bar that galestorm introduced me to on Friday, there was immediate capitulation. Muahaha!

In keeping with the theme of the weekend, I also read 2 very appropriately titled and excellent books: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, and Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson. They were both sumptous and magically written and I highly recommend them both. I read Housekeeping a million years ago when it was first published, and just re-read it again after having recently read her 2nd novel (Gilead), which won the Pulitzer last year, but which I was disappointed in because I was expecting it to be as good as I remembered Housekeeping as being and it wasn't, in my opinion. Even the first few pages of Housekeeping when I began the re-read confirmed my memories of its wonderful and vibrant voice.

Now the house is trim and tidy and sparkling. The kids have been sternly warned not to mess it up before we leave for the wedding in a week and a half, so that it will still BE clean for the arrival of my family the day we return. If they do, it will be more than just chalk that I throw.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms of all sorts out there, and especially to my very own Lizardmom, the greatest mom EVER!

Really Great Writing Out There Right Now: The Parting-Month of Spring
 accomplished
mood: accomplished
music: Indigo Girls—Come On Home


Comments

So much is recognizable in this entry. I too was a zealous player of school. I can distincly remember erasing my imaginary chalk board and lecturing to my dolls and friend Tara.

I very much enjoyed "Gilead", so your suggestion that "Housekeeping" is much better really makes me want to read it.

Housekeeping is VERY different, much looser and much more emphasis on lyrical language and images. I liked Gilead well enough, but it was a bit sedate and spiritual in a "telling, not showing" way, if you know what I mean. I think it really suffered in comparison with my recollection of her first book. I was so excited to read it because Housekeeping was published in 1981...so it's been a LONG wait for her second novel.

(Anonymous)

Happy Mother's Day!

~Sprigs

I had completely forgotten about "Dawn" dolls. Thank you for the memory peak. She was such a glamourous little thing.

Wow! I'm going to have to teach Ingrid how to play Brownies and convince her it's the most fun game ever!

And Yay! It's done! :) Sparkling house that leaves contentment everywhere because you can see what a difference it makes. :)

we sometimes played house, sometimes played school, sometimes even played army, but mostly, we put on shows. comedy shows, haunted houses, dance routines, radio programs (taped on our trusty fisher price tape recorder)...you name it. we were just born hammy, i guess.

We used to do a lot of "putting on shows" too...especially Christmas pageants! We even have a couple that we recorded on cassette tape. When I listen to them now, I just think, "My poor parents!!" bahahaha!

(Anonymous)
Hey!

When you were describing your childhood, it sounded like mine! I had two sisters and we used to play House and School all time time. We also played ORPHANAGE (wonder about that, huh?). We had Barbies (about 30 between the 3 of us) and would play these magnificent far-flung family dramas. AND we had Dawn dolls, so that was cool to hear you speak of them! I burned a Dawn doll's hair once because I held it up to a lightbulb. I don't remember WHY...

Do you remember, was it the Dawn dolls or other kinds, that came with a little plastic thing that you could stand the doll in on a record player and it would spin while you played the record?

I also remember having a doll that came with its own record, a thick plastic colored one...

Thanks for sharing your stories! I love it!

Re: Hey!

Yep, that was the Dawn dolls, that came with the record player spinning thing. :)

(Anonymous)

Two things about this post that struck me.

I'm reading Housekeeping. Or, I should say that I'm listening to it (I have a long commute, and listen to audiobook cd's on the way to work). So far, so good. Glad it seems to have gotten good reviews by most people here.

The orphanage thing is too funny! I did it too. This was during the Swedish part of my childhood, and my cousin and I used to play it in the lekstuga in our back yard. All the dolls got fancy 18th/19th century names, and we even made up histories for them all, and wrote them in a book. One poor doll's parents were run over by a stage coach, and another set fell to their death's during apple picking. Now, this sounds just freaky, but it was a lot of (morbid) fun.

Hej, och tack for mej!

~Angela
(http://www.threecrowns.squarespace.com) - blog
(http://www.threecrowns.etsy.com) - my crafty shop

Was the Swedish part of your childhood in Sweden? How funny about your doll's parents. That must have been some tall apple tree! I just went and looked at your webshop and your little blankets are SO adorable! Almost makes me wish my kids were babies again...but not really :P

(Anonymous)

Hi,
Yes, the lekstuga was definitely from the swedish portion of my childhood. I think we were just girls who had read too much Kulla-Gulla, and thus fabricated dramatic lives for our dolls.

Glad you liked the shop and the blankies. I love making them, although it seems that the bags are the better sellers. Lots of them with fabric from Sweden (Ahlens, how I love you), which is another funny way how swedish-ness continues to permeate my life (my crafty life). My son, Jackson is the same age as Karin and it does seem a long time ago that they were babies.

Nice chatting with you. I miss my life in Sweden, so thanks for writing about, and sharing yours.

Angela

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