“Gert was promiscuous. “ And then my brother said “Her husband criticized her housekeeping.” I’m not sure either of these two traits was a true – or fair – measure of my Aunt Gert.
Aunt Gert laughed and talked and danced into rooms. I met her twice. First when she made the trek from Scotland in the early 1960’s to Prince Rupert in northwest British Columbia when I was a very young child. She enchanted me with her gurgling Scottish accent, her rich, smoky laugh, and her high hairdo. She visited again in the early 1970’s when I was 16 years old. We smoked together. She told me she liked to wear glitter on her cheeks when she went out on dates. I didn’t find it hard to imagine her – by then in her 50’s – going out on dates. Gert sparkled.
The family likes to tell the story of when she arrived in Prince Rupert that summer in the 1960’s and shamelessly had a fling with the young son of a business colleague of dad’s. Gert was likely in her 40’s and the young fellow would have been in his early 20’s. Gert scandalized my father. Perhaps stern words were spoken afterwards. But now when one of my siblings recounts the story we chuckle. We measure her differently now.
I sprayed the kitchen window with a mix of vinegar and water and attacked the paisley shaped smears of bug guts with paper towel. I estimated they’d been there since last summer, the remains of my daughter’s killer accuracy with a fly-swatter. Bug guts combined with 9 months of kitchen grease and dust made a tenacious opponent to my homemade cleaning fluid.
I leaned into the glass and pressed hard but the smears stuck. You might ask why the streaks had gone unnoticed all this time. They hadn’t. I ignored them until the spring sun in all its impish boldness attempted to come through the glass but was stalled by congealed bug gore – Nike swooshes of death.
I opened the cupboard below the kitchen sink and found the industrial window cleaner that smells like trench warfare and sprayed. Two minutes later, the clean windows revealed a spotless view of our neighbour’s back yard – which at this time of year resembles Vimy Ridge – and the sun blew into the room unimpeded. It shone on my filthy kitchen floor. I closed the blinds.
Yesterday at work, we gabbed about the coming long-weekend. Someone said they planned to clean. I said I never plan to clean to which they replied “But you have children. They can clean for you.”
I huffed, “That’s not a value I wish to pass on.”
My attitude towards housework is casual – promiscuous, you might say. My husband does not criticize. Aunt Gert would be welcome in my home anytime. But I do wonder what will the family stories be when I’m gone and how I will be measured?