When I was in the Honours year of my English degree, I paid a visit to my supervisor in a flood of tears.
“For every one thing I read, I realise there’s another fifty things I haven’t read and need to read,” I sobbed. “It’s overwhelming. All that… knowledge… that I don’t know… ”
My supervisor was very sympathetic.
“That’s a sign of a good student,” she said. “It’s the mediocre ones who think they know everything.
She was right. I was a very good student – if by “good student” you mean one who bailed out of academia at the first opportunity and to this day remains unsure of the meaning of the word ‘discourse’ and describes Post-Modernism” as “something that sort of happened some time after Modernism”.
So yes, I pretty much took the “I’ll never know it all, so why even bother?” approach. It has served me well throughout my life and has made me the person I am today – as opposed to some other, much more successful person.
In any case, anyone who has ever visited “The House That Ate Paris” will know this is definitely my approach to housekeeping. For one thing, I find cleaning this house much like peeling an onion, one brown layer at a time: by the time I get to the white bit, I’m weeping openly, only to then have it turn brown almost immediately (which – to stretch the metaphor somewhat – onion certainly does when you fry it. Not that I fry my house, mind. That be arson.).
My father, in stark contrast, has always had an amazing thirst for knowledge and is completely undaunted by mess – as I rediscovered during his recent interstate visit to lend a helping hand in my husband’s [absence].
The first three days, he dutifully did all the dishes and hung out (and then brought back in) all the laundry. By the last day of his visit, he was so on top of the situation, he was virtually washing the dishes before I used them.
That’s when the moment I had been dreading happened.
“Where’s your broom?” he asked, casually. “I thought I might do some sweeping.”
Oh, shit. I thought. Anyone who’s ever spent any time perusing the Gallery of Domestic Godlessness, would know that an activity such as sweeping was likely to uncover something like this:
So next thing I knew, I was desperately trying to clean up things before he started cleaning them – yes, I caught a glimpse of what it must be like to have a cleaner.
Two hours later, I found myself down on my hands and knees in the kitchen, scrubbing the bottom of the aging kitchen cupboards with methylated spirits. This was not a place I had ever thought I’d find myself, and what’s more, now that I found myself there, I wasn’t too sure that I liked myself any more.
My father walked in having just vacuumed under the loungeroom rug.
“Let’s make a pact,” I pleaded. “If you stop, I’ll stop… Please stop.”
My father agreed and I immediately downed tools and took to my bed with a copy of Who Weekly to recover. My father, meanwhile, relaxed and unwound by sharpening every single pencil that the children owned. (“Mummy, why is this pencil so pointy?” The Pixie asked me later, which reminded me of the time she’d pointed at the iron and said, somewhat accusingly, “What’s that?”)
And later that afternoon, the kids and I sadly took my father to the airport and drove back through the falling darkness to our sparkling clean house. It felt good to be home.
Twenty-four hours later, of course, it was almost like his visit had never happened…
Thanks for all your help, Dad.