A Luxury

The house smells of Murphy’s Soap because our weekly housekeeper of the past 22 years has just left. She swept and mopped this floor just an hour ago and the room feels clean and free of corgi hair that will soon begin accumulating again on the area rug and wooden floor.

I grew up with a daily housekeeper, first Louise Love and then Lorene Massey. They were both African American women who cooked and cleaned for my five siblings, me and my parents. I appreciated them then and I appreciate Elda now for her weekly dusting, sweeping, mopping and bathroom cleaning. I didn’t have a housekeeper after I got married until I was in my early 40s and I never, not ever, take Elda for granted.  I have been on my knees plenty of times over the years, cleaning bathtubs and toilets and I know exactly how unglamorous it is. The truth is that I would gladly clean our bathrooms if need be as long as Elda would dust and do the floors. Those are my failings. It is hard for me to ever want to pick up a dust rag or plug in a vacuum cleaner. Luckily, Ray loves to vacuum so he often goes from room to room with his “Shark,” making sure that corgi hair doesn’t bury us between Elda’s visits.

I understand that I am a privileged person to have a weekly housekeeper.  I work every day so I’m not all that privileged, but clearly, I have enough resources to allow for this luxury. I am grateful I have this option since I know exactly how tired I would be – how tired I was with three little kids – when I didn’t have that choice. 

One day I said to my mother that I didn’t feel as if I deserved to live in a beautiful house or have more than most of the rest of the world.  Her response has stuck with me. “No one deserves the life they are born into – good or bad. Our job is to do the best we can with what we’ve been given with the help of God’s grace.”

I live in one of the wealthiest communities in the United States and am far from the top of the economic heap here. Many people live in much bigger houses, drive more expensive cars and have much more impressive bank accounts than I ever will. At first, this bothered me; now, I don’t care. I’ve lived here long enough not to be dazzled by externals and to also understand that comparisons are unproductive and often downright destructive. Just like recognizing that there will always be someone out there (or many someones) who are smarter, it is undeniable there will also always be many people who are more well-off.  But I have come to know from experience that quality of life is not dependent on excessive money, simply enough to ensure a safe and comfortable place to live as well as enough extra to pay bills, buy nutritious food, and allow access to decent health care. The rest is nice, but not necessary to have a rich and meaningful life.

But there’s no denying that a housekeeper, daily, weekly, monthly or even quarterly, is a true luxury. One I am deeply grateful to enjoy.

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