In a conversation with Sir Campsalot recently, I happened to mention a habit of my mom's which generated quite a "wow" response from him. So I thought, why not share these interesting characteristics with the world so as to understand the essence of how I turned out the way I did (at least some parts of it).
Let's start this momversation by addressing the habit that I discussed with Sir Campsalot first.
My mother was from that generation in India that wasn't too familiar with the appeal of label-makers. So she got my dad to print out the names of all the spices in her pantry, black against white, same font etc. Then she sat down with all these printed names and painstakingly cut out each "label" (all equal sizes, mind you) and then proceeded to stick them on identical (PearlPet I believe) storage containers with white lids using traditional cello-tape such that the clear tape would be nearly invisible on the clear surface of the container while firmly securing the "label" to it. What's more, these containers were organised alphabetically (I believe) and she always knew when something was not returned to it's original place. No one else would notice any difference but her, and when she did, she'd stand at the door of the pantry and ask, "You've been living in this house forever and you STILL don't know where the salt goes?". Except, I swear she sounds like her face is on fire and you'd think that her eyes could turn into blowtorches to set yours on fire too. So growing up, I thought it was perfectly normal for me to spend power cuts and parts of my summer vacation helping her and my dad affix "labels" to containers.
When I was in college, I'd visit home around twice a month because I lived 4 hours away from home. And during my visits, my room would get a tad bit messy with all the clothes that had to be laundered and those that had to be packed. And when I say messy, you should know that by normal teenager standards, my room was GOLD but by mom standards, it had to be burned down. So on one particular occasion when she was being extra annoying, she walked into my room with some cleaning cloths and said that everything was dusty and horrible and that we had to start cleaning "right now this very minute missy!" and I said "I'll do it later". She was quite clearly mad at my response and tried to play the "I have to do EVERYTHING in this house" card which basically translates as "Don't even try to help because you'll not do it the right way but I'm going to complain anyway just to make you feel bad about your entire existence". So she picked up a cleaning cloth and started beating the shit out of my window railings in an attempt to "dust" them while also venting her frustration. But she was so frustrated that - WAIT FOR IT - the cleaning cloth eventually flew out of her hand and out of the window and landed on the parapet of our house. There was no way to retrieve it unless we called someone with a ladder for help. I knew it was devastating for her but I just couldn't control myself so I burst out laughing and she turned to me and half-laughed-half-cried like a bipolar person for some time. It was epic.
My parents have a huge monthly shopping haul routine where they'd go to a supermarket and stock up on dry goods and products that don't expire easily. It's a big deal in the Narayan household and long (and I mean LOOOONG) lists are made meticulously by the Mrs. At any given time in the Narayan household, one will find extra bottles of shower gels and shampoos and toothpaste and even toothbrushes because "What if we have unannounced guests?" among other reasons. But that's not the part I want to dwell on here. What interests me now is something I thought was perfectly normal at the time. After her shopping spree, my mother had the habit of coming home and sitting with the spoils of her little adventure while she meticulously ticked off items from the bill just to make sure that she wasn't billed for anything that she didn't bring home. It's a THING in our house and she spends a lot of time doing it.
The kitchen is where a lot of activity takes place in the house not because my mom enjoys cooking but because my dad does. He contributes to at least one meal a day and his cooking-time is the highlight of my mom's day because there's a lot of cleaning up after him to do. So she hovers over the area, cleaning as he goes and by the time the dish is ready, the whole kitchen is also sparkly clean.
Because the kitchen is the hub of all activity in our home, it also happens to be home to a big wall calendar that plans our entire lives. Even when I was away at college, she'd call me up sometimes to inform me that I was due to get my period soon "because last month you were here when...". That calendar marks everything from when the bathrooms were cleaned to when the gardeners arrived. I wouldn't be surprised if she's still tracking my period from all the way across the globe. Are you, MOTHER?
Ironing every single item of clothing is also a thing in that house. She would even iron certain undergarments and her explanation was that "we leave them outside to dry and you don't want any tiny ants or other insects biting you there!". I never understood why more than two of my former college roommates thought that I was weird for ironing even my laundered pyjama bottoms.
And finally, the routine. It was beaten into my head from the day I was born. I've heard reports that I was always a very clean and "fresh-smelling" baby and my childhood photos reveal how even as a toddler, I wore pretty frocks and knee length socks around the house like a perfect little British kid. The socks were more my dad's thing but you get the point. I grew up noticing and learning that my parents had a routine of waking up, showering and cooking at the same time everyday. You'd never see them in night clothes from early morning till late evening. At any given time, they'd be ready to get out of the house dressed as they were indoors.
So now, when I ask The Husband "you've been living in this house for as long as I have and you STILL don't know where the sugar goes?" or exclaim that "I have to do EVERYTHING in this house" while secretly not wanting him to help, or when I make detailed lists before every single time we shop or pack for vacation, or when I return home to meticulously enter my expenditure into my budgeting app, I realise that everything I grew up seeing gradually turned me into my mother. "Clean up as you go" is the mantra that I live by and I have slowly outgrown the need to iron even our undergarments. I can hear her go "But..." after reading that last sentence but trust me Mother, no insects will bite us there, I assure you. And although it took me 24 years and 9 months to be dressed even indoors like I would if I had to pack up and leave at a moment's notice, I'm glad your example finally got me here.
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