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KAREN SCHWALLER

By Staff | Oct 1, 2010

There are so many people in this world who know so much. I mean important things like that age-old trick (for women and men) about how to make your hair defy gravity by combing it straight up, or that it takes a certain amount of patience, skill and thinking in order to break a 4-H calf beginning the week before the fair.

It’s great that in these days of “information at your fingertips” and running ourselves ragged to get it all done, that we can still do some things the old-fashioned way – by looking to our elders for the things we really need to know.

Older people are like our information superhighway that actually walk and talk to us, but the difference is that they can tell us how to do something and add all that stuff that the internet doesn’t.

For example, a recipe can tell you that you can add squash to it, but the older, experienced cooks can tell you that your kids probably would use it for experiments on the cat if you do; or that being involved in the lives of your grown kids is important, but that you can resemble a horse’s hind-end if you are too involved. You know, stuff like that.

It happened one afternoon as I was in my office. The housekeeper came in with her usual feather duster and smile, pulling a vacuum behind her. Her smile in and of itself was amazing, considering she has to clean my office after (what seems like) the contents of Noah’s Ark has passed through there during the course of a week.

But as we got to visiting in our usual way that afternoon, she just blurted something out that really got me to thinking. Well actually, it horrified me and gave me a knot in my stomach; which wasn’t the worst thing, considering it was the most exercise my stomach had in quite some time.

She ran her feather duster around the book shelves and windowsill and was laughing and chatting with me as we exchanged wisdoms about home, family and her frustration over her guess that a man must have picked out the carpet that goes in my office because it’s so hard to keep clean. And then she said it. “You know, if you look in a woman’s car, her house looks just the same.”

There was no warning or anything that this kind of shocking statement was coming.

“Oh man,” I thought to myself, as I did the one-eyebrow-thing-up like Mr. Spock on Star Trek. I couldn’t have been more horrified than if Madonna herself had showed up on our church step. Had this woman ever seen the inside of our car? Had she seen the inside of our house? Was she trying to tell me something that I needed to know?

This woman is really into housekeeping. I classify her in the same category as my big sister, saying that the most obvious difference between us is that you could eat off of her floor and not even think twice about doing so; and you could eat off of my floor and get full.

When my mother comes to visit, she must really wonder where she went wrong. Most times she just makes her way into the house and walks swiftly with arms outstretched, reaching for the dish soap; or she starts folding the laundry that has been in baskets in the living room since the Regan administration. My sister just leaves me a note in the dust somewhere when I’m not looking, then waits to see how long it’ll take me to find it.

It’s great entertainment for her. I’d do the same at her house, but I’d have to bring the dust in order to do it, which I could probably manage.

OK, so my housekeeping habits have tended to take a back seat to other obligations and, well, to other things I’d rather do. But now I’m feeling the pressure that I have to keep my car clean, too. How do older people know things like this?

I tend to prefer my neighbor’s thinking about dusting her house. She said, “I’ve decided that dust is just part of my country look.”

Her car probably looks like mine. Whew. Thank God I’m not the only one.

Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her at kschwaller@evertek.net.

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