Wendi Aarons is an award winning humor writer who lives in Austin with her husband and two sons. She’s written for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Big Jewel, HybridMom, Austin Woman Magazine, Parentwise: Austin, and many other places that she can’t remember because of her raging Pinot grigio habit. She also produced the Austin show of Listen To Your Mother. Wendi is currently writing her first book, blogging, and giving advice with her hilarious friends at Mouthy Housewives. Find out more at www.wendiaarons.com.
My lack of domestic ability has been the big family joke for most of my life. Every time I’ve moved into a new house or apartment, my parents’ favorite thing to do is to ask whether my new stove is gas or electric, then laugh their heads off when I don’t know the answer. Once, I didn’t even know where the stove was, but in my defense, it was sort of hidden behind the vacuum cleaner. (That’s the thing you use on carpets, right?)
Although my mother patiently taught me all of the household things she herself did so effortlessly, for some reason, it didn’t take. I tried sewing and pinned my garment to the floor. I tried craft making and maimed myself with a pipe cleaner. I tried making smoothies and had to repaint the ceiling after I forgot to put the lid on the blender. And my cooking is so disastrous that it’s already sent me to the emergency room. Twice.
Basically, I’m Susie Homemaker with a head injury.
But recently, when my parents told me they were coming to visit, I decided it was time to turn over a new leaf. Time to get my shit together and embrace my inner housefrau. After all, how hard could this homemaking crap be? I’m smart. I’m educated. I’m not usually that drunk before 5 p.m. And so began my intense campaign of wiping, scrubbing and organizing absolutely everything in our four-bedroom house before they arrived. After five days, I was exhausted and my hands looked like they belonged to an arthritic, 80 year-old cannery worker, but my house, my house was immaculate. Not even a CSI team with 100 black lights would have found a single, lousy fingerprint. I was ready.
My parents showed up and immediately seemed impressed with the new management. They even complimented me on my matching towels and the non-expired milk in the fridge. But it wasn’t long before my mom asked me, somewhat dubiously, if I had an ironing board she could use. Now, if my husband ever had the balls to ask me to iron one of his shirts, I’d be laughing too hard to throw the dry cleaning coupons at him, but I’d prepared for this moment. “Why, of course I have an ironing board!” I happily chirped, and skipped over to the broom closet where I pulled out my newly purchased ironing board with a flourish. “I keep it right here, so I can get to it easily when I need to press my cloth napkins for my themed dinner parties!” Then I casually leaned over and, with one finger, whipped that sucker open like one of the aging showcase models on The Price is Right. “Ta-da!”
My mom looked at the ironing board and seemed a little surprised. And, I think, a little proud, too. Like maybe her daughter wasn’t actually going to die in a grease fire of her own making some day. I gave her a smug Martha Stewart smile and basked in our lovely mother/daughter moment.
Then my son Jack bombed into the room, took one look at the ironing board and yelled at the top of his lungs, “WHAT THE HECK’S THAT THING, MOMMY?”
“Oh, come on, silly!” I said as I glanced sideways at my mom. ” This is the ironing board! You know that! You’ve seen it before!”
He walked up and gingerly touched it, then quickly pulled back his hand and screamed,“No, I’ve NEVER seen THAT thing before!”
My mom was now covering her mouth with her hands to hide her…giggling? “Sure you have, Jack!” I persisted. “You know mommy uses this ironing board when she irons out the wrinkles in your clothes!”
He looked down at his khaki pants. “But I thought you said that wrinkles make our clothes more interesting and that if we have a problem with it, mister, we can just go stand in the bathroom when daddy’s taking a shower or something. Isn’t that what you said when you were watching TV on the couch like you usually do?”
Raising my voice so I could be heard over the little squeaks that were now coming out of my mom, I gave him a stern look and said, “No, I didn’t Jack. Do…you…understand?”
“OK, whatever, lady,” he muttered, then walked out of the room shaking his head like somebody who’s desperately counting the days until he turns 18.
“Sorry about that, mom,” I said, as she dabbed frantically at her now watering eyes. “I don’t know WHY he said that. But you know how whacko 5 year-olds are. I mean, he thinks chickens can talk. Now, would you like some spray starch or would you prefer to just use plain water? Personally, I find that starch works much better on permanent press, but…” I rambled, trying desperately to go back to that lovely mother/daughter moment where I was a competent adult.
Then 7 year-old Sam ran into the room, stopped dead in his tracks and, pointing at my brand-new, shiny ironing board, screamed, “Wow! What’s THAT thing? A surfboard on legs? Did Grandma bring it here? Can I RIDE on it? Whoo! Cowabunga, dude!”
And it was at that moment, as I watched my now belly-laughing mom gasp for air and my son try to surf on an ironing board, that I realized I’d probably never become a domestic goddess. Or a domestic wenchess. Or even someone who actually keeps vegetables in their vegetable crisper. And you know what? That’s okay. I’m perfectly happy to turn over my featherduster and buy another fire extinguisher. It’s just who I am.
But, for the record, I’m pretty sure my stove is electric.