Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dance of the Servants

I only mention it once.

I need to clean the bathrooms this afternoon... I breathe it, seemingly to myself, but I'm moving ever so slowly today so I move on to other things and decide to just see about it later.

But she hears me.

And while I'm clearing the table from lunch and my sons begin to wash the dishes, she clambers to the top of the washing machine and collects the cleaning bucket from the cabinet, filling it with fresh rags and every little thing one might need to clean bathrooms used by mostly boys... spray bottle full of vinegar; small container of homemade soap scrub for the sink and tub; cut-up sponges to fit her smaller hands...

And it isn't until she hops down and the telltale thump registers in my brain that Yes, I did say I needed to clean the bathrooms, and, oh dear, I must have said it aloud, that I breathe a deep, third-trimester breath and smile at her as I gather bleach and broom.

How could I think she would ever forget our sweet tradition?

Come, Cinderella, we must do our very best to finish before the ball tonight! Oh, I do hope we'll be allowed to go...

She giggles and skips ahead of me down the hall. Yes, Arabella, I'm sure we will- but we must finish before stepmother returns!

And the tradition continues while she sits on the counter and wipes the mirror, and I ask her from hands and knees at the base of the toilet, How will you change Mother's old-fashioned gown to be suitable for tonight?

I sneak side glances as I scrub, trade looking at brownish-yellow gunk for just a peek at blonde tendrils falling into her eyes, pink fingertips holding the rag that's resting in her lap now; she's pondering. Well, I think the ruffles must go. And since Mother was married when she wore it, it IS off-the-shoulder, so I must add some straps to make it 'popriate.

I hide a smile, though it reflects back at me from the basin. It sounds lovely, sister! I think I will polish her old brooch, and maybe the earrings, too. They've been stored away for ever so long, I say. 

And she sprays and I scrub and she wipes and I lumber in and out to start washer loads of towels and we giggle as we stand on the edge of the tub to unhook the shower curtain and all the while we are sisters, taking joy in our work for the reward of an imaginary ball.

It's the dance of a servant, this.

I'd chosen long ago not to complain aloud about some of my least-favorite duties, seeing how her green eyes followed and mimicked my every move (and emotion, and word, and body posture...), and as a result my Cinderella cannot wait to assist me in them.  My heart still resists, and I always find ways to put those horrid duties off, but her joy and eagerness pull me along till the job is done and I am always, always thankful.

And now she's shifting in and out of character, murmuring dreamily of future days with her coming baby sister; how they'll sketch in the woods, or sew by the wood stove.  She steps back from shiny sink and places fists on her slim hips: Why, the time positively flew, Arabella!

And I, heavy on hands and knees, weary face in the muck, swollen fingers in the mire... find my heart dancing.

16 fellow travelers shared:

Linda said...

It is such a joy to see you back here. I've missed your words.
I love the picture of you and your sweet girl working and dreaming together. What a wonderful big sister she is going to be.

~nanashouse~ said...

So, how am I to comment when my eyes are leaking down my face? Love you dearly. Meet you in Heaven dear one.

Anonymous said...

So glad to find a post from you. I've missed them. Another fabulous word picture. You are such a creative mother.


Laura said...

Oh, oh, happy was I to see a post in my email box tonight! And to find all is going well with your pregnancy and that you are having another beautiful girl! I know Eliana is beyond thrilled. My Ella keeps asking for a baby sister-she loves her 2 brothers, but you know, she'd like someone to dress up in those beautiful princess gowns! So happy for you and how blessed this little one will be to have you as her Mama. Thank you for the lovely picture you painted with your words. Oh, I so long to have such sweet moments w/ Ella. I, on the other hand, am often doing such unpleasant tasks in a rushed manner and sending Ella and Caleb off to play to get out of my hair. Oh, Jesus, help me to serve joyfully alongside my children like this. Thank, you, dear Elise for your words once again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much! Love your heart.
I have 3 daughters....and yes they
mimic a mother's demeanor on cleaning.
Once I heard the play vac banging into all the furniture legs , and when I asked what was up....the little one said,"but Mommy that's the way you do it."
Caught again.
Being ruthless with an unwelcome task.
Repent and whistle while I work.

Anonymous said...

Girl...squeal!!!!!! :)

Just welcomed my own fifth sweet one...a girl, too! We have two beautiful daughters (13 and 10) and two delightful sons (7 and 3) and now a wee girl in the house again...well, it has a sweetness, yes?

Glad to see you back again. And those slow-moving third trimester days...well, I know them well. And yet, in hindsight, they were all too fast.

You always inspire me to mother better. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post this is! I'm so glad I found your spot here!


lydia said...

Thank you for these wonderful words. I very much wish this is how I was approaching my own unpleasant tasks - for my own benefit, yes, but mostly for the wonderfully sweet time that would be for my girls. Thank you for sharing, convicting, and inspiring! God bless you as you enjoy(!) these large third trimester days.

Stacy said...

dear Elise,

I read this right after you posted it but was unable to comment at the time, so I'm back to comment. :)

I think of you often, and wonder how you (and your family!) are doing.

What a delight to find a new post over here and to hear of your fanciful cleaning of the bathroom, with sweet Eliana. You're such a wise and creative mama, Elise!

Blessings to all of you,

Megan said...

Hi Elise, thank you so much for a wonderful application of a fairy tale, teaching cheerful work by example! I linked to this post at


Heather said...

What a delightful tradition you have created for you and your daughter. I enjoyed this so much and yay, for getting to the third-trimester. Soon!

emily said...

oooh, i have checked by many times the past couple months, eager to hear an update! SO exciting about your precious little girl on the way!! congrats :)
thanks for the encouragement in this sweet post ...

Jenny said...

Another girl!?!?! Congratulations! Oh, if I could I would dart right over to clean your bathrooms for you here in your third trimester. I can't remember...are you still in Utah? We moved to Minnesota three weeks ago and drove right through Utah, spending 1 night in Park City.

Jules said...

Thank you for showing me how to be a happy and joyful Mama. I love your blog and have lurked for years. Congratulations on your new baby girl!!! We have 5 beautiful blessings, 3 girls and 2 boys, and they are all amazing!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to see your words again--I've been praying for you.


emily said...

i keep checking back, eager for any baby updates!! when are you due? :)

Related Posts with Thumbnails