Cleaning in the Buff? Maybe Grandma Was On To Something

This is the only hat I own with a feather in it. I may or may not have been wearing it this morning.

Warning: If the idea of midlife nudity scares you, you might want to turn back now.

Maybe it’s because I am now 50, but I find myself thinking about my female ancestors quite a bit lately. I come from a long line of strong women, and most of them, I am not ashamed to say, were quite the characters in their time. Today my thoughts are going to my great-great grandmother, who lived a long and interesting life. Family lore tells that she had a gift for knowing the future, but that is a story for another time. Today my thoughts are going to her housecleaning habits.

I am told that on cleaning day, she went about her chores, in the buff, except for a hat with a feather in it. This story has always amused me and I have been impressed by her confidence. As I turned 50, my mom referred to me as “Feisty.” I’ll take it. I commented that the same could be said about her and our foremothers. I also wondered if they were always as feisty as they were when she and I knew them. From the brief history I know, I doubt it. I think that these women likely hit a certain age and decided to do things their way from that point forward.

Back to Great Great Grandma. Of course I would wonder about her strange cleaning habits and wonder why.  Here are some of my theories:

She was just a little eccentric. We all have our own little quirks and ways of doing things. This was just her way of demonstrating her individuality.

She was guaranteed to get (almost) everyone out of the house. (I suppose her husband may have stuck around.) No one wants to see Mom or Grandma in that state and anyone who has tried to keep a house clean knows that it is much easier when there is no one there to make messes where you just cleaned or to have to shoo out of the way.

She hated to do laundry. It is a part of the process to get dirty when you clean, thus creating more laundry. Washing a body takes less time than washing clothes. Or maybe she just wanted that one moment of knowing that all the clothes were clean.

She was always hot. So. Freaking. Hot. (Those of you in the area of 50 know what I am talking about.) Cleaning is a physical, sweat-inducing process, especially when you hate it and want it done fast. This morning, I went to clean the kids’ bathroom. Now this is usually their task, but we have company coming and I was pretty sure it was not up to my standards – I was right and the task took more time and energy than I expected. And I was overheating. When I finished that one and went on to my bathroom, I couldn’t stand how gross I felt anymore and stripped down, since I was getting in the shower when I was done anyway. Hmm, maybe she was on to something. Naked cleaning is surprisingly refreshing.

Family stories are fun to listen to and wonderful to share. Sometimes we find that we have things in common with distant ancestors, whether it be physical attributes, common talents, skills or interests, or even similar mannerisms. I love knowing that so many strong women came before me. Women who were not afraid to speak their mind and buck conventions. I am proud to be their daughter, granddaughter, and niece and to look at the next generation and see the seeds of feistyness there as well.