This was first posted when our middle child was in her freshman year at LSU. As the first reports trickle back of how this years new under-grads are faring, let this be a warning for parents… for the record, the daughter in question is now post college and a clean freak.
I hear the phone ringing and curse the one on my desk with a dead battery. Pressing the send button on the keyboard I dash through to the kitchen and grab the kitchen phone before it stops. Glancing at the number I smile; it’s Missy calling from the States. I press the answer key.
‘Hey Missy, I’ll call you back!’ She’s a student at LSU, and as I dial her number I’m thinking it’s a strange time of day for her to call. Two rings and she picks up.
‘Mom, I need to ask you a question real quick.’
I smile indulgently wondering what sage, motherly advice is required, what the crisis can be. A recipe emergency: what meat do I need for lasagna? A medical issue: can I take NyQuil and Tylenol at the same time? Or the correct answer to a trivia question, drunk-dialled at two in the morning her time – more often than not monarchy related – her girlfriends assume by being born with a British passport I’m on first name terms with the Royal family.
Okay sweetie, what is it?’
‘How often should you clean the toilet?’
Sometimes you’re stopped in your tracks as a ball hits you from left field and you’re struck dumb.
Not an imaginative response but a good default one in the circumstances. Missy has been at university, sharing an apartment with three high school girlfriends, since August last year. It’s now the end of the spring semester.
‘How often do you think you should clean a toilet?’ I’m playing for time wondering where this is headed.
‘Well, that’s the thing Mom. We’ve decided to have a bit of a spring clean and kind of wondered how regularly the toilet should be cleaned. Just as a general thing.’
How can she NOT know the answer? All her life she’s been warned to be careful, there’s bleach in the toilets or sinks. The Captain is always coming home complaining the house smells of Clorox. I’d even given her a lesson on how to clean the darn thing before she left home, although to be fair, she had looked rather underwhelmed at the time.
‘When did you last clean it?’ I hold my breath.
‘We’ve been having a think about that and we figure, oh, around the beginning of last September,’ oh…my…god… that’s over eight months ago, ‘and we’re a bit concerned about the maggots.’
‘Underneath the toilet seat and the carpet around the pedestal. We’re a bit worried about the bath too; it’s looking a bit grubby.’
Dear. God. I hope not literally.
I can’t get the vision of a maggot infested bathroom out of my head and I’m panicking it’s going to be there for the rest of the day, possibly longer. I fight the urge to retch and I’m aghast at my daughter’s, and it has to said, her girlfriends, appalling lack of basic hygiene.
Outlining the minimum requirement of toilet and bathroom cleaning, calm advice is given along with information on suitable cleaning products, how to apply them, and how to deal with maggots, like it’s perfectly normal to have this conversation.
I decide to ask a few tentative questions about the rest of the apartment, in particular the kitchen and fridge.
Further dialogue follows, with several enlightened and drawn out ‘ohhhh’s and ‘wow, I never knew that’ from her end of the phone, and reassurances from mine – if they hadn’t already died from food poisoning or maggot attacks everything would probably be fine.
‘Aww Mom, you’re a lifesaver! None of the other girls dared phone their moms to ask in case they got yelled at.’ I can relate. ‘I’ll call you later, let you know how we do. Hey, I guess we should really get some latex gloves to deal with the maggot situation, yeh?’
I walk back to my desk shaking my head in disbelief. These are supposedly, bright intelligent girls. I log onto Amazon and express ship The Cleaning Bible: Kim and Aggie’s Complete Guide to Modern Household Management down to Baton Rouge.
As a last note : Missy emailed later to say this was the GROSSEST thing she’d ever had to do, and due to the excessive fumes from the cleaning fluids they’d had to vacate the apartment for two days until it was safe to return. She was also amazed at the variety of mould it’s possible to get on different types of rotting food.
Oh how funny. I laughed out loud at this. My university was relatively local/commutable so there wasn’t a ‘need’ for me to move out as such. But let me tell you, being in a single parent family for most of my teens meant I was more than equipped with a somewhat practical education on ‘chores’ when I moved in with my boyfriend at 18. I think it was he (3 years older) who learnt a thing or two!
Oh dear, better steel myself for a casual, upbeat inquiry. And here I was feeling good that he’d done laundry at the end of the first week!