Right now, my house is the cleanest it has ever been. Ever. It is even cleaner than it was in that intermediary vacancy before I moved in and after the previous owners moved out, when the contractors completely stripped my little corner suite then re-installed fresh new carpeting and paint, and had a professional army of Señorita Cinderellas come in with their yellow rubber gloves and Pine Sol.
My place is clean. It is sanitized. It is so hyper hygienic that Dr. 90210 could come in and augment 18 pairs right there on my living room floor.
It’s been in this spotless, stainless state since Easter Sunday when everyone and anyone who is even remotely related to the Delicious family squeezed into my superurban LA apartment and had brunch. The gathering itself was a tiny heavenly slice of family fun, but the three weeks leading up to it was my personal hell-on-earth, which I lovingly refer to as Operation Apartment Storm.
Holidays have a standard operating procedure in the Delicious family. Everyone knows that chances are 99% that the “kids” will trek 40 minutes to Orange County to have brunch/lunch/dinner, if not exactly in, then in the immediate of, our parents’ house. And yet, as if history never repeats itself, several weeks before a Holiday or birthday or other celebratory event, one person kicks off a chain of chaotic communication that begins with “What are we doing and where are we eating?” and no matter how many emails, phone calls, text messages, restaurants reservations, and modifications get broadcast, re broadcast, and re-rebroadcast into the airwaves, ends up with “What are we doing again?” We end up eating Korean barbecue fused with China and Japan in the backyard.
Last year, due to a curiously coincidental synchronization of various family members’ travel plans, Easter brunch was only moi, one of my sisters sans her business-tripping husband, and my boyfriend at the time. We had smoked salmon Benedicts and lots of Champagne at my apartment. Or maybe that was just me gulping down the bubbly.
Because three of us had Easter brunch at my house that year, suddenly Easter Brunch is now a tradition at Sarah’s. What the...!??! Mom called me a few weeks before Easter.
“Dad is very interested in coming to your place for Easter.” The emphasis was on “very.”
“Oh?” I replied. I knew exactly where our conversation was going, and how it would end, but I played dutifully along anyway. “Why is he interested?”
“He wants to see your place.” This time, the emphasis was on “see.” If we weren’t having this conversation over the phone, I’d be able to see Mom’s raised eyebrows, widened eyes and head nodding slowly as if to make me understand.
Oh, I understand. I understand alright.
Dad doesn’t want to “see” my place, he wants to “inspect” it. Mom’s “He wants to see your place” is code for “He wants to find things to complain about so you better clean your place as if the President of China were coming for dinner.” (I would have said the President of the United States, but I just don’t think GW cares all that much.)
Three days before Easter, I launched Operation Apartment Storm – not just tidying up, making my bed, and perhaps running the vacuum over the carpet. No, OAS was a full-scale attack from above on disorderliness, and from below on bacteria. I did all my dirty laundry, put it away, then thought it over and re-organized my entire wardrobe to make sure all the shelves, drawers and hangers were uniformly folded, evenly spaced, and color-coordinated. I did the dishes, put them away, then just like my closets, emptied every cupboard, dusted the shelves, and re-organized pots, pans, plates and cups in descending order of size. I got down on my hands and knees to wipe the kitchen floor, and had to use a toothbrush to scrub the grubby corners. I even used the attachments on the vacuum cleaner in the kitchen to suck out the nasty bits of shriveled corn kernels and dried up rice from the nanoscopic space between the refrigerator and the counter. I couldn’t just wipe down the stove top with Fantastik. I actually lifted up the entire range top and scraped the burnt on, dried, petrified oil and juice, then bleached the burn-stains with Clorox. In the bathroom, I cleaned the toilet from every angle, standing, facit it, as a guy would to make sure I wasn’t missing any spots that I wouldn’t see as a girl sitting down and facing the other way.
I think I inhaled more dust, dirt, dead germs and chemicals in three days of cleaning than I have driving with my windows wide open during rush hour on the 405 every day for 10 years. But, that’s the kind of cleaning that had to be done. I did it in stages over the course of three days, working well into the night and getting up at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning to make sure it was all set for the Captain’s white glove inspection. It was a sacrifice – my hands are dried and cracked, my nails are and splitting peeling, and my lungs still burn, but it is worth it
Thank God, else I would have been hearing about how a cluttered, messy environment reflects the state of my cluttered messy mind for another fifteen years. And that underscoring why no one will ever want to marry such a cluttered, messy girl.
Brunch itself was good. I spent two weeks beforehand checking in with my sisters to make sure I had everyone’s dietary needs and personal picky preferences accounted for. Armed with excel spreadsheets of grocery lists, grocery stores, and timelines, I spent the day before, aside from Phase 14 of Operation Apartment Storm, shopping and prepping ingredients. Sunday morning, my sisters came over and we merrily, and mildly stressedly, made brunch.
And yes, I served caviar. That was a special request from one of my sisters, and since I was still Fantastikally high on phosphates and ammonia, I didn’t resist. The caviar was hard to find. Because I don't love caviar, I have never bought it on my own, and thus, wasnt quite sure what I was looking for or where to go. Surfas came to mind, but then I realized that spending $200 of unearned cash would make me hate it even more, and after three straight days of wrestling bacterial filth on porcelain surfaces in my house, I was already in a bad mood.
At the market, a tiny jar of some American fish eggs from an unfamilar species of fish was just under $15. It was still the most expensive ingredient per unit that I bought. To make my life easy, I made my sister do all the dirty work of dolloping cream on store-bought chips, spooning eggs, and garnishing with chives. I couldn't bear to assemble them after three straight days of trying to purge my household of filth, but I did allow myself to taste one. It wasn't horrible, but I'd rather eat Sour Cream and Chive Lay's topped with Ajax.
We drank Mimosas and Pink Lemonade (which wasn't worth the $2.29 per bottle, until you turn it into a mixer for Absolut) with the main brunch entrees. Spinach and Artichoke and Broccoli, Ham, and Cheddar quiches were already cooling on the table, and while we fried Tuna Cakes, tossed a Crab, Mango, and Avocado salad, and wrapped bacon around fresh asparagus to roast quickly in the oven alongside a sheet of Garlic and Parmesan Baby New Potatoes, I wondered out loud where my Dad was. He was in my room, and I am almost positive someone said he was peeking under my bed. I think he was hunting for Easter dust bunnies. Ha! I vacuumed under my bed, with the attachments, twice, and lined up all my purses and handbags by season. I think he was secretly disappointed that my room was perfect.
And he didn't say much about the food, either. He only asked for a second slice of quiche.
That was all I needed to hear.
** a year ago today, i taught myself about passover with coconut macaroons **