Susan Dennis (susandennis) wrote,
Susan Dennis


NPR keeps playing this blurb from Tig Nigaro from a story she's planning to tell on This American Life. [edit later... just heard it again and it's not TAL, it's The Moth Story Hour] It's a story I've heard her tell before but also, and way more importantly, a story I have lived and lived with a critical twist.

She talks about her horrible stepfather who used to do horrible things to her like - and then she lists out his crimes all of which sound perfectly reasonable and rational to me. 1. I think Tig is a bit of a princess (which I'm sure would horrify her that anyone would think so) and 2. My Mom did the same stuff to me. Neither at the time, nor now, do I think it was anywhere close to horrible.

I did chores around the house and got a weekly allowance. I never once considered that to be low wage menial labor. And now I think both the work and the cash were a relatively rare privilege.

She says her step father used to tell her to clean up her room and if she didn't do it in the time he set, he'd go in with a bag and collect everything and make her buy her toys back from him.

My Mom, not at all unreasonably, liked a tidy house. If she could have added a week onto her life for every time she told me to clean my room she would not only be alive today at but also outlive me by a long feakin' shot. I never thought it was an unreasonable request. I didn't like it. Cleaning up was not my long suit. I had better things to do like read my book or stare out the window or ignore my homework. Her repeated requests, orders and threats did nothing to persuade me.

And, so, while I was at school, she'd go in with a big box and haul away anything left out. If I wanted any of it back, I'd have to buy it at the Mom Store with cash.

I'll bet old Tig would have taken her step dad to court had he tried the favorite one of my Mom's tricks.

We were given money every week to buy lunches at school. I figured out really fast that I could make my lunch at home and take it to school and pocket the cash (which I could later use at the Mom Store. For a week, my plan worked splendidly.

And then there was the morning that a sign appeared on the fridge:

Feel free to make your lunch for school. Be advised, you will be charged:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich $1.00
Baloney sandwich $1.00
Chips $1.50


Please have cash ready to hand over before you leave for school.

And my plan died an instant death.

But, back to tidy. I just was not. My poor mother never came close to turning me. Until 2005, I always always always had a mess somewhere. I used to pretend I was having company over in order to trick myself into tidying up the house. In 2005, I gutted the place and hired a designer to redo it all. And, in that process, I gave away half of my stuff to Goodwill and tossed out another 4th. The designer made places for the last 4th and I learned to be tidy. Finally.

If you had called 15 years ago to say you were coming over, I would have stalled you for as long as possible and then scooped up and hidden stuff in drawers, under beds, in the backs of closets.

Today, there is rarely a time when my house isn't suitable for company. This still surprises me every time I realize it.
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