Monday, April 18, 2005

Otter Woman Speaks...

"That night, Otter Woman tossed on her pallet of pine branches thinking of other things she had noticed. White women could not make peace inside their lodges. Day after day they fought dust and dirt. They made war on everything-clothes, pots, floors; fighting with lye soap, scouring ashes, straw brooms, and feather dusters. Otter Woman felt sorry for these white squaws who did not realize that dust and dirt were just a part of life to be endured like a bad, cold, hunger or mosquitoes." quote from Sacajawea by Anna Lee Waldo

This is one of my favorite quotes from Sacajawea which I am officially finished now that my book review is done.

Ever since I was a child I have had a problem with doing household chores. Both of my sisters still resent me for not helping with the housework as a child. I remember my older sister dragging me to the sink to dry a few dishes but you know what it says about taking a horse to water. I was a stinker for sure. Mom kinda threw in the towel over this. I do not recall ever vacuuming or dusting, much to the other two's chagrin.

My Indian Mother on the other hand, was a real cleaning fanatic. She was taught well by the nuns at the residential school about keeping a clean house, her nativeness was cleaned out of her as well.

After I had moved away from home, whenever she came to visit she would end up cleaning. My roommate and I finally forbade her to and told her just to sit down and relax. "Where is Mom," I asked my roomie. "I don't know!" Then we would both rush to the bathroom to find her scrubbing the bathroom to a shine.

When my sisters came to visit, they were not so cordial. One would stand with a towel beside the tub, sighing. I would reply by pulling out the scrub brush to guiltily ready the tub fit for an occupant. If I had remained as spunky as I had been as a child, I would have handed her the brush and ran!

Now, I am somewhat better but not better enough not to be amused by Otter Woman's observation. My Mom was caught in the crossfire between cultures really. She would fuss if the window curtains were not hanging straight. "Do you want people to think that Indians live here?" she would cry. "But Mom, we are...."


11 comments:

Jennia said...

Hee, I am unfamiliar with doing housework, too. Always my mom...:P

Jennifer said...

A fellow housework hater here too!!! I don't know when the last time was that I scrubbed a tub!

Jennia said...

Carol, there's a good idea for you from Leonore in my guestbook. :)

Carol said...

I thought is was going to be about cleaning!

zhoen said...

Maybe the best course is to sometimes clean and sometimes not. Was that Martha or Mary? It's less a matter of which, as when. If you can clean enough to make guests comfortable, and stop cleaning to enjoy their company, then it doesn't matter which end of the continuum you are on. If you cannot clean enough for guest to feel comfortable, or you cannot stop cleaning at someone else's house long enough to enjoy them, then you are out of balance. Both damage relationships. Both are bad for the soul.

Carol said...

Balance is usually the answer to everything.
I am glad to have you visit,Zhoen.

moira said...

When you say Indian, do you mean 'from India' or 'native?' Of what nationality/tribe are you?

How refreshing, to find another person who doesn't place ultimate priority on a perfectly sparkling home. I am learning to be better, but will never clean compulsively.

I have to smile. Thinking about constantly encroaching dirt reminds me of a book I ran across a couple of years ago: The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe.

Carol said...

Hi Moira,
It is good to hear from you. I wondered if the term "Indian" would cause confusion. I am half Native Indian. My Mother was half Cree and half Saulteaux.
I know I made it sound like I am a slob but that is only the side of the pendulum I originated from. I also know the other side too that wants to overdo everything including the cleaning. So basically, I am trying to get to the balance from both ends without overswinging the mark.

moira said...

Sounds all too familiar.

Anonymous said...

Margo Lane
I am a bit surprised about the comments concerning this entry. I think they kinda missed the point. For some women, housecleaning is more than scrubbing the dirt off the floor or vacuuming the dustbunnies from behind the sofa. The house is seen as an extension of the woman. It is part of her identity. The obsessive cleaning is almost like some kind of costume a woman wears to "fool" others into thinking she is, in fact, beautiful and "clean". This entry about your mom is a poignant account concerning a woman who did not want to be seen for who she thought she was;in this case, a bigoted white person`s version of a native.

Carol said...

Thank you for understanding so well.