Old House

My daughter has a summer job that requires a lot of my time – she works with my husband at the outdoor event arena that he works at as well. Problem is their shifts don’t mesh, and I am stuck driving her home from most of the events she works. Like at 9:45 pm. I’m not a late night person…yes, 9:45 is late night for me.

Don’t judge – I get up at 5:00 am. Plus the venue is a 25-30 drive from my house. The other night between the travel and getting her food, it was a 90 minute excursion.

I had jobs as a kid – but I lived in a town where you could walk to everything. My first job was working as a cashier in our local supermarket. But the manager was a sour-pussed old man who glared at you from his little office perch and yelled at you each chance he got.

So I quit that job and began working as a cleaning gal in one of our town’s 200+ year old homes. One of the main reasons I took the job was for the pay…$5 an hour. Back in 1981 that was, to quote Jeff Spicoli, “righteous bucks.”

The couple who lived in the home were a nice elderly man and wife. However, they turned out to be a tad, well…eccentric. But I liked that, especially after supermarket sour puss. But it didn’t take long for me to realize these two were not your average couple.

My first day on the job they broke me in by having me clean the kitchen. This would usually mean doing some dishes, cleaning the counters, maybe sweeping the floor, right?

I walked in to see fish heads boiling on the stove. There was a thick, grey foam gathering around the sides of the pot as one fish eye stared at the beamed ceiling. They used the meat that fell off the heads to feed their cats. I really did not relish the idea of cleaning that pot.

But that was not the first of many odd jobs I would be given at that house. I would spend an entire Saturday morning oiling the old wood floors. Funny thing is, I used vegetable oil that came out of a big yellow jug – or maybe it was corn oil. I’d pour about a cup’s worth out, and spread it over the floor with a sponge mop. You know those floors would suck that stuff up almost instantaneously?

There was a small wing of the house that was the original 200 year old portion – a very small cottage that had been subsequently added on to. It was the most charming part of the home; you could imagine some little colonial family living there, and cooking over the fireplace. Yet his pleasant, historic little room was used by the cats as their litter box. It was my job twice a week to find and dispose of all their little turds. Whee!

Did I mention these two were a bit slovenly or are you starting to figure that out for yourself…

I remember one time I had to clean their bathroom & bedroom. The bath had a bidet – I remember thinking, “who the hell needs a bidet in New Jersey?” But the worst was what I found under their bed while picking up their dirty laundry. I found a stack of very old porn magazines. I’m not talking Hustler or Playboy. I’m talking about some shit from the 50s or 60s.

I was horrified. You have to remember, I was only 16 or 17 at the time, and these folks were old enough to be my grandparents. Finding this porn bummed me out – it was like walking in on your parents havng sex…I had a hard time looking either of them in the face for at least a month.

I remember another instance where I was sitting with the wife at her dining room table. I was telling her how a girlfriend of mine at school had died of Hodgkin’s Disease, and how upsetting it was to me. It was at this point that she opened her mouth and let out a very loud, very wet burp. She didn’t cover her mouth, she didn’t embarrassedly pardon herself afterwards, she just kept looking at me and listening.

It was so odd.

All these things aside, they were still a cool old couple. They helped sponsor me when I was in the New Jersey Miss National Teen Age Pageant (now there’s a blog post), and the wife actually helped me write my essay on who I admire the most. She suggested I choose Alan Alda, who I did not admire in the least, but he was from our home town and was big on feminist issues…it was a good hook.

And it was a good job – the work could be hard sometimes – washing the multitude of 12 paned windows with 100+ year old glass in them was no picnic, but you could daydream while you did it. I worked there until I graduated high school and had earned quite a tidy little sum of cash.

I think back on that job, and that kooky little couple from time to time…especially when I see a bidet, boiling fish….

or vintage porn.

Advertisements