Most of you never met my Mom, JoAnn Goldberg. Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, she was the daughter of immigrant parents, one from Scotland, one from Russia. She was a beautiful and charming woman, a teenage model who was raised Lutheran, married her high school sweetheart at age eighteen – my Dad – and raised three boys in Broomfield, Colorado.
A stay-at-home mom who divided her time between cooking, doing laundry, cleaning and decorating our home, chauffeuring the three of us all around town, and loving and supporting my Dad, she loved to travel, had dozens of friends, including a couple of my former girlfriends, and went to church occasionally, usually alone. My Mom was a wise, gregarious, classy lady who loved to read, wore her heart on her sleeve, and was rarely sad. Regrettably, she died when I was thirty-two years old, at age 57, a victim of a sudden heart attack.
Growing up, Mom had a mission; she made sure that we were equipped with certain life skills to ensure that none of us would ever be “dependent on a woman.” I thought that was a curious, even strange, goal at the time. I mean, seriously, why would I ever need to know how to make a bed, do laundry, fold clothes, iron a shirt, make a meatloaf, run the vacuum cleaner, or mop the floor? Who would care if I knew how to sew a button on a shirt or patch a hole in my jeans? What would it matter whether I knew how to clean a toilet, water the plants, do the dishes, polish a pair of shoes, or remove glue from the countertop? And truly, why was it important for me to know the differences between detergent and bleach and fabric softener? Turns out these weren’t just household chores. They were tasks that also require math, science, time management, finance, and other skills.
I first discovered the method to Mom’s madness when I went to college and realized that literally none of my new friends knew any of the above. For the first year, when they found out that I knew this stuff, they all asked me to help. My sophomore year, I learned that our second-baseman had some of these same skills. He became my roommate the next year and from then on the rest of the guys came to us for help with basic tasks like laundry, ironing, and cooking. I promise you that more than one guy in our group of friends would have starved to death in his never-washed jeans and hoody if it wasn’t for my roommate and me; well, us and Dominos pizza delivery. I helped more than one buddy sew a button on a uniform top, polish his cleats, and keep alive the plant that his girlfriend gave him.
I learned much about homemaking skills from my Mom in her short life. I learned the rest from my wife. Kitsen was a master homemaker. She always gave the credit to her mom and her 4H home economics teacher, and rightly so, but she took what she learned and transformed those skills into something extraordinary. And she taught those skills to our children, and to me. Thank God she did.
Kitsen used to call all of the aforementioned tasks, her “Cinderella chores.” She regularly set aside certain times during the day or a specific day during the week where our home was transformed from “warm and comfortable” to “Home and Garden worthy.” Those were the times when the house, and everything in it, got cleaned, dusted, scrubbed, disinfected, ironed, hung, changed, and poofed and fluffed. It was almost magical to come home from a long day at work to a home that was sparkling clean with everything shiny and fresh-smelling, a special meal on the stove, and clean sheets.
I never appreciated either my Mom’s or my wife’ efforts as much as I should have and certainly didn’t tell either of them enough. But I thought about my Mom and my wife all day today. Today was the day I had the opportunity to do my own version of “Cinderella chores.” I actually pay to have seamstress tasks and ironing done for me because, well, I hate sewing and ironing. And even though I have someone to help me out a couple of times each month with the household deep cleaning chores, today I got to put into practice what I learned most recently from my wife, but originally from my Mom. I changed the sheets on the bed, watered the plants, cooked meals for the week, loaded and unloaded the dishwasher twice, did two loads of laundry, folded everything, including that pesky fitted bedsheet, polished a pair of shoes, took out the trash and recycle items, swept, mopped, scrubbed and vacuumed like a fiend. And at the end of it all, I sat down, drank a beer to toast my Mom’s, and my wife’s, memory. Then I cried. Mournful, thankful and joyful tears, all at once.
Although she’s been gone from my life almost as many years as I lived with her, I remember my Mom fondly. Especially today. Mom, I hope you were watching. And I hope I made you proud.
Douglas G. Goldberg, Esq.
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