The kids are in school and the house is quiet. They are in the house but they are behind their closed doors, in their rooms, on their respective zoom calls. I am loving this new structured long-distance learning. They have schedules and they keep them. They pop out for breaks and grab breakfast or lunch but then they both head back to do their homework or putz around their rooms until around 3:30 or so. Then they head off on their bikes to meet up with friends at a nearby shopping center. They don’t shop. They get boba or some snack and sit around talking with their masks on six feet apart. I know this because I spy on them.
I can’t believe how much easier parenting is at this stage. I know I’m borrowing trouble making a statement like that. I know they are teenagers and romance and boy problems are just around the corner but right now we are in the eye of the storm. I just want to savor it while it lasts.
I think of my younger friends struggling with their elementary kids or their toddlers that are still hanging on their arms while they are trying to do their own work at their laptops in their makeshift home offices at their kitchen tables… I just want to tell them it will get better. It gets so much better! I remember how hard it was. I remember long nights of not sleeping because I was trying to knock out a deadline in the only quiet I could find in a day. I remember stressing so hard because I couldn’t pay my bills. I guess all that fear and stress finally paid off but I constantly feel guilty for how easy my day-to-day is now. I’m scared of sharing too much about how easy it is now. Do I deserve this? I doubt it. I feel like I’m borrowing trouble just speaking about it.
I have house-cleaners now and they just left. Housecleaning Friday is my favorite day. The house smells so good. The clouds of dog hair that lurk in every corner are banished. It’s a wonderful day. I love my house-cleaners. They are a team of two to four girls run by a soft-spoken woman named, Jasmine. She drives a nice car and runs a tight ship. I think she is an entrepreneur because we found her through a service but she quickly cut us a deal and now we pay less and we don’t go through the service anymore.
Jasmine and her team come every other week. They change the sheets, clean the bathrooms, vacuum the dog-hair-infested rugs (did I mention dog hair is my biggest problem?) and mop the floors—all the things I really hate doing. Everyone wears masks, of course. Sometimes I give them all the things I’ve been saving to give to Goodwill. It wasn’t so long ago that I was the hired help getting that box of unneeded things. It’s so weird to be in this position but I’m getting used to it. I’m so happy I can give them work. It’s one of those things I never thought I could afford. But I can and it’s not as expensive as I always thought it was. I don’t know why I held out so long on hiring help. I guess it’s just one of those luxuries that I didn’t think I needed or deserved. Or maybe it was a caste thing that I just couldn’t get my head around. I still struggle with it. But I love our cleaning girls. I love paying Jasmine.
Since we’re talking about luxuries, I should add that while I’m sitting here in my freshly cleaned house, I can hear the low rumble of our new whole-house fan that we had installed a few months ago. It was a huge investment for me, one that I’m really proud that I could pull off. I had wanted a whole-house fan ever since I discovered them at the local fair and felt the whooshing cool air on a hot summer day but it took a couple of years to scrounge up the money to have one installed.
We have high ceilings in our house and late in the day all the heat that builds up in the top of our house seems to come down and oppress us. It was the weirdest thing. Our house is really cool all day long until about three or four in the afternoon. Then it becomes really hot and will stay hot until the middle of the night when everything outside is nice and cool. I’d take the dogs out for a walk at twilight, when the air is cool, and then come back to a sweltering house. It made no sense to me. Why is it so nice outside when it’s dark but our house is a sweat lodge? The solution to this hot air build-up was a whole-house fan. Once it was installed it pulled cool air from outside in and pushed the hot air in the ceiling out through a vent. It creates a huge wind tunnel in our house and every thing cools down in minutes. When we used to sweat at night with fans blowing on us, now we cuddle under cozy covers because our whole house fan brings the temperature all the way down to a chilly 72 degrees! Chilly in the middle of summer! And it costs a quarter of what the air conditioner costs. It was a huge expense but I think it’s already paid for itself.
I don’t really know what my point is with all this except to say that once you get over the hump of being poor, everything gets exponentially easier. My heart goes out to everyone who is still struggling because I remember so clearly how difficult life was and I didn’t even have it that bad! I just finished reading American Dirt about an immigrant woman who’s whole family was killed by a drug cartel. The book is about her journey with her young son across the desert, riding trains and facing death at nearly every turn. I constantly have fear that my good fortune could turn and I might find myself fleeing for my life. Could it happen? Of course it could! Not likely but the narrator of the book didn’t expect that to happen her either. One day she’s a bookstore owner the next she is emptying her bank account and running for her life.
A long time ago I was talking to a friend of mine and I shared that I was really stressed out about money. He looked at me with understanding but said that he too had lived with wealth and without and when he thought about it he realized that he really wasn’t that much happier when he had a house with a mortgage or when he was living in his van. I’ve often thought about that what he said and I don’t know if I can agree because I have so much anxiety about money. I do know that this friend is way more zen than I am. He is really good at living in the present, something I am not. Maybe that is why he can enjoy where he is at no matter where he is at. I’m trying to do that. I wish I could go back to my old stressed-out self, living in that apartment that I couldn’t really afford, taking money out of my 401K with its exorbitant taxes and tell her to snuggle up with that little girl and hold onto the moment but I’m not sure I could have. I think I just have to sit with this moment right now and stop feeling guilty. I can feel that fan and I can smell the clean house and try to be present right now.