When You’re Feeling Sorry for Yourself, Scrub the Kitchen Floor

“When you’re  feeling sorry for yourself, scrub the kitchen floor.”  Can’t remember who said it or where I  came across the quote.  It’s a good one.   Hot suds in a blue bucket, yellow rubber gloves, scrub brush with a wooden handle,  rags from an old towel, on your hands and knees–a meditation on daily use. First, clear the room as best you can.  Turn the chairs upside down onto the kitchen table.   Find  your daughter’s long-discarded volleyball knee pads or at least a folded towel to kneel on.  Start in the farthest corner of the room.  If  you cry as you scrub or if resentments emerge with the vigor of your scrubbing, that’s the point. While you purge self pity–that’s what it comes  down to–you accomplish something. Scrubbing the kitchen floor is an antidote to any strong emotion.

You can be mad, sad,  or anxious, worrying about someone you love.  There’s a family story about my mother’s mother.  On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, she was  on her hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor in my parents’ apartment in Elko, Nevada, waiting for news of her son who was on a Navy battleship in the Pacific.   She didn’t know if he was dead or alive.

She had come to Elko in mid-November  to await my birth, her first grandchild.  After my safe arrival, she allayed her anxiety about her son with her tried and true method.  By the time the news came that he was safe, Mother said the old linoleum floor sparkled.

You might find you are teased about your old-fashioned housewifery and told that cleanliness is next to uptightness, not godliness.  Don’t worry about it.  Most likely, the  criticism comes from those who have little understanding of what it was like to be raised on a  ranch,  who don’t know how hard it was to keep nature outside.   Most likely, they didn’t grow up with the chaos of back porches, where overcoats and boots and greasy caps and cowboy hats and ropes and wrenches and baling twine were  held at bay. When a ranch wife  said, “I just scrubbed the kitchen floor,”  she meant the men in the family better know the difference between the back porch, the house, and the barn. My kitchen floor in Tuscarora is the same  black and white linoleum tile that  was in my mother’s kitchen at their ranch thirty miles southeast of Elko.  The ranch has been bought and sold several times.  Both my parents are dead.  When I’m nostalgic  for that time and place, when I’m feeling sorry for myself,  missing those dear people, I scrub the kitchen floor.

Categories: Uncategorized | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “When You’re Feeling Sorry for Yourself, Scrub the Kitchen Floor

  1. sabine swallow

    oh, this is SO GREAT – once again. I just recently scrubbed my kitchen floor. being too lazy to get the knee pads, I suffered and made sure everyone knew it too. moan and groan. lived on a farm myself once and remember how sacred a clean floor was.

  2. Sheila

    My guidance counselor gave me the same advice 45 years ago – love this!

  3. Lillian Brown

    The only “real” way to scrub a floor…on your hands and knees!

    • tuscawriter

      Lillian, it’s so nice to be in touch with you. I want to hear your stories!

  4. Well said and true! I first heard about getting rid of anxiety this way in, ” Mama’s Bank Account” later made into a movie called ” I remember Mama”. My mother used this technique with a mop because of bad knees.
    Rent the movie. It’s good. Shows San Francisco as I remember it in the 40s.

  5. Floor’s in need. Back’s out. I’m either lucky or cursed. Must rely on spring sunshine as current great healer. Terrific piece.

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