When Daddy got home, she told him what I did, and he belted me. The usual thing, my pants pulled down around my ankles leaning over the bed. Him sliding his belt out of the loops on his pants, and whap, whapping me first for throwing away good food. Even if I hadn’t lied about this, it would have been a terrible thing to do. It’s a sin to waste food. Then more whap, whaps for lying to Mommy about it.
So now, I always eat everything on my plate no matter how full I am. Once all the food is eaten, Kathy, Mary Ruth and I clear the table. When we have company Mommy’s the one who gets the ball rolling by announcing like a circus ringmaster, “And now it’s time for my automatic dish washers to go to work.” Everybody gets a good laugh from that, except Kathy, Mary Ruth and me.
When it comes to table clearing there’s only one way to do it. We stack the dishes—platters, plates and bowls—in separate stacks largest on the bottom, smallest on the top, being sure to scrape any bones onto just one plate so the rest are in a neat stack, easy to carry. And we group the silverware in bunches like flowers. All of this is important so as not to waste a lot of time going back and forth just carrying a random dish or two. That would never, ever do.
Then we put any leftovers from the serving dishes into smaller dishes, cover them with foil, and put them in the refrigerator. Then we wash and dry all the dishes, no matter how burned some of the cooking pans might be. And when Mommy bakes chicken the pan is always burned. It’s not okay to let the pan soak for a while to soften up the crud. Whichever one of us is washing that day has to scrape and scrape and scour and scrub until the pan is clean. The other two, the ones on dish drying duty, have to stand and watch too while all this scraping is going on. None of us can leave the kitchen until all the work is done including wiping all the kitchen counters down plus the dining room table. Then one of us scrubs the kitchen sink.
On Saturdays we scour the bathroom sink, clean the toilet, dust all the wooden furniture in the living room and dining room. We vacuum the dining room, living room and hallway, and do other things that just come to Mommy’s mind, including practicing piano, which we do every day so it seems like a chore to me, even though I really want to be able to play. We also have to pick up our room every day, and on Saturdays we have to dust it really well too. Usually that’s enough when visitors come, except for the O’Neills.
Something about the O’Neills makes Mommy extra nervous and Daddy a little something else that I can’t quite figure out. It’s not like he’s mad, like when he’s about to punish me for something. It’s maybe a different sort of mad. So, when we’re expecting a visit from the O’Neills, which isn’t often, Daddy puts a white glove on his right hand and shows it to us so that we can see how clean it is when he puts it on. Then he starts rubbing surfaces in our room—the molding, Kathy’s jewelry box, the cardboard boxes Mommy covered with old wall paper that we keep under our beds that are full of toys and treasures, the pole in the closet, the curtain rod—everything. And it never fails that when he’s done, the glove has dust on it, and we have to set to work again.
He doesn’t inspect the rest of the rooms with a white glove. Mommy’s in charge of those, but she makes us go over everything twice before the O’Neills come, and all the while she mutters things like, “Your Aunt Ruth and Aunt Bea are so tall, they must think I’m a midget, and they have to look down their noses at me” or “The O’Neill’s only shop at the best stores, Marshall Field and Carson Pirie Scott, you know. They’d be beside themselves if they knew our table cloth was from Monkey Wards.”
Then when the O’Neills arrive, Grampa Adams just shuts himself up in his room, and Mommy always greets Grampa O’Neill with, “Hello Dr. O’Neill, may I take your hat and coat?” Very formal and not at all normal. And things stay like that for the whole visit, like if somebody talks too loud or has a really good belly laugh, something very important will break. Still, it’s nice to see them too, and I guess all these visitors are another good thing about living here.
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