Monday, March 4, 2013

Alice Doesn't Live Here

As a child of the 70's, I was a child of the television. One of the influential programs of my early formative years was the Brady Bunch, of course. (Start instrumental theme song music here.) It's a story of a man who is widowed and left to raise three boys and a dog. He meets a woman who was also widowed and left to raise three girls and a cat. They marry and combine households. The man had a live-in housekeeper, Alice. She remained an integral part of the family even after Mr. and Mrs. Brady got married. For those of you over thirty-five, it's a nice walk down memory lane. For those of you under thirty-five I'm sure you can Google it, find it on YouTube, or see it on Nick-at-Nite. Beware, the theme song gets stuck in your head!

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I had a stay-home-mom and I understood why Mrs. Brady didn't have an Alice - she had only three kids, like we did, and she was a woman so she knew how to cook and clean. Whereas Mr. Brady needed a substitute mother to cook and clean. It made sense. I didn't understand why they kept Alice after they got married, but it was part of the story, so okay. As an adult I have so many questions about that show. How, with six kids, did the house stay orderly and clean? Did Alice do all that herself or did Mrs. Brady help? How did they manage to prepare meals to feed nine people every day with only two pots on the stove at any given time? If Mr. Brady was an architect, why didn't they have additional bedrooms and bathrooms? Do these questions keep me up nights? No. Well, maybe sometimes when I'm having a hard time sleeping anyway.

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A writer is also an observer and I have observed that there are basically two types of women: those who clean and those who cook. My mom is a cleaner. We never went hungry but I was the kid who thought the food at the school cafeteria tasted good. Sorry mom. Our house was hospital clean without the staph. My mom's house to this day is in a constant state of deep cleaning. Starting with the ceiling fans and high places being washed, not just dusted, and working her way down to the floors and baseboards. One room at a time and when she's finished with the last room, she starts over. She thinks it's fun to clean. Even growing up our house could have been photographed for Better Homes and Gardens on the spur of the moment - we were clutter free and always picture perfect even with two cats, a bird and a guinea pig. I, on the other hand, cook. I love to cook. I use every pot and pan in the house. I have spices and herbs you may not have heard of and I use them. I don't put meals on the table, I create repasts and I even garnish them! I think it is fun to cook. Clearly, both Mrs. Brady and Alice were cleaners.
Alice doesn't live here. At the end of the weekend, I look around my house with a mountain of laundry to do, a sink full of dishes, sofa pillows on the floor, toys scattered EVEYWHERE, dog fur EVERYWHERE, shoes and jackets, sippy cups and snack bowls in the office and living room, books and magazines strewn about, perhaps construction equipment too. Monday is straightening day and the rest of the week I clean a few rooms a day, do some laundry every day and by Friday I'm caught up and the house is ready for the Demolition Derby called the weekend. I wish Alice lived here.

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For fun, my husband and I fantasize about winning the lottery (who doesn't?) and what we'd do with the vast millions we'd have. He talks about his super woodshop with all the tools he'd ever need or want. I talk about the kitchen I'd have and my own Project Studio where I could go to write, knit, crochet, needlepoint, do pottery, or whatever creative outlet stuck my fancy for the day. We talk about the dream house and how and where we'd build it. Frankly, I'm content with the way life is right now. The only thing I'd really want to do with lottery money is buy me an Alice.

Some of my traits and history rub off on my characters. Poor Walter is doomed to live in a cluttered home. It's as straightened as it will get, he knows where everything is, but he doesn't live in a "clean" environment. Fred's wife, Eileen, cooks like my mom. The Primrose Inn is my fantasy living environment (minus the murder, of course). There's more, but that would spoil the story and I want you to read it! Maybe I should give Walter an Alice?

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