Saturday, June 14, 2008

The List

Welcome to the first installment of Your Husband Might Be Unemployed If…

For a while, I was at the perfect age.

Old enough to stay home by myself in the summer while my parents worked, but not old enough to get a summer job.

The freedom was awesome. I was home alone from 8:30 – 4:30 all summer long. I still remember rolling out of bed mid-morning, wandering around in my pajamas, eating cupcakes for breakfast, and watching In the Heat of the Night on cable TV.

For some reason, I had an obsession with In the Heat of the Night. It didn’t help that USA ran continuous episodes all summer long. I started calling people by their last names and became a crime-watcher in my own neighborhood. I am still a little bummed I never got to make a citizen’s arrest.

The only thing I didn’t look forward to was The List.

Each morning, before Mom left for work, she’d leave me a list of a few chores I could accomplish in her absence.

Looking back, I realize how lucky I was. Some parents could have exploited child labor laws, and I could have spent my summer resurfacing the driveway or sanding down the deck.

Instead, she’d ask me to empty the dishwasher and fold the laundry. Sometimes, she’d ask me to dust the living room.

Mom would always write the The List in her cheerful cursive scrawl, put numbers by the chores (there were never more than 3), and end the note with, “I love you! Have a great day! Call me if you need anything! Love, Mom.

I hated The List.

The List just RUINED my day. I usually let myself eat my cupcake breakfast, and then I would grumble about slave labor as I finished the chore list as fast as I could.

I’d slam the dishes into the cupboard (Sorry, Mom, if you’re reading this, that’s how all the glasses got chipped. I know I blamed the dishwasher, but I was lying. When you’re an only child, you have no one to blame but the dishwasher.).

I’d stomp up and down the stairs with the laundry and fold it in front of the TV. And, when In the Heat of the Night took a commercial break, I’d dust the living room like Speed Racer on speed.

When my parents got home from their jobs, I’d sigh and complain about exactly HOW BUSY I’d been that day doing ALL the housework.

Because I made sure of it, Mom knew I hated The List.

Eventually, she started making her own little jokes. The List would have #4’s asking me to make a million dollars, watch TV until my eyes fell out, or slide down the wooden banister.

My mom, the jokester.

Eventually, I grew up and was old enough to get summer jobs. On my rare day off, Mom would still leave me The List. In fact, I believe I had The List all the way up until I got married.

Then, of course, I got to make The List. For myself. And, it has a lot more than 3 chores on it.

Lately, since Brett’s been unemployed, I’ve started making The List for him. Since I felt WAY too much like Mom leaving a written list, I just politely ask him to do a few things during the day.

I have little negotiations with myself before I even ask.

“Okay, so I’ll ask him to do one hard thing – clean behind the fridge. And two really easy things – put the dishes away, and bring hay in for the rabbits. Yeah, yeah. That’s not too bad. I’ll ask him like he has a choice, and he won’t even notice.”

Before I leave for work, I gently rub his shoulder.

“Sweetie, I’m leaving for work. No, no just keep resting. Hey, if you don’t mind, can you please clean behind the fridge today? Oh, and bring in some hay for the bunnies. Oh, and if you could empty the dishwasher? Thanks, honey! I love you! Have a great day! Call me if you need anything!”

I rush down the stairs and out the front door, satisfied I didn’t sound like a nag, and that I asked in the sweetest way possible.

Upon my return home, of course, is the inevitable letdown, and another sign Your Husband Might Be Unemployed If…

…he finishes a completely different list of chores than the ones you left for him.

Brett will meet me at the door with a big hug and a smile.

“Hi, babe! How was your day? Mine was really busy. I mean, I fell asleep on the couch for four hours, but otherwise I was SO busy. I’m completely wiped out. It was CRAZY around here.”

I start smiling. Until I see gunk still clinging to the back of the fridge.

“Didn’t you clean behind the fridge?”

“No, I actually didn’t have time to get to that. I polished the doohickey, though, and sanded the backhoe. Oh, and if you ever want to use that fondue set we got for our wedding eight years ago, it’s ready. And the garage floor is bug free!”

He stands there beaming at me, and I’m actually speechless.

For a second.

“Did you at least bring in hay for the rabbits and empty the dishwasher?” I ask, testing my English skills to be sure I wasn’t speaking a different language in the morning.

“Oh, right. No, I didn’t have time for that. I mean, polishing the doohickey took most of the day, you know. And those bugs didn’t leave under their own free will.”

He’s obviously so proud of the absolutely useless chores he’s accomplished, I can barely work myself up enough to burst his bubble.

But I am a trooper.

“Sweetie, that doohickey hasn’t seen the light of day since I bought it five years ago. It didn’t NEED to be polished. The rabbits NEED their hay. There is a REASON the fondue set was still in a box in the garage. Because we don’t fondue. You KNOW that. We’ve been together twelve years. Have we EVER had fondue? The dishwasher NEEDED to be emptied.”

The man I love is starting to get a little offended. “Hey, maybe I WANTED fondue, huh?”

“Yeah, well I WANTED a clean fridge. And why on God’s green earth did you kill all the bugs in GARAGE? It’s okay for bugs to be outside. That’s where they belong. You should have been killing this fungus that’s growing behind the fridge!”

“Fine! Fine!” Brett huffs into the other room and crashes onto our broken sofa with a martyr’s sigh. “I work my fingers to the bone for you, and you don’t even appreciate it!”

The unemployed husband I now fully support leans back on the sofa, flips on the World News, and gives another Oscar-worthy sigh.

I head back out to the garage, which is – admittedly – spotless. I say a little prayer for the bugs and heft hay into a bucket for the rabbits. Back inside, I snap on the gloves and give the fridge a resentful once-over.

Craning my neck, I see Brett is still pointedly ignoring me, and my sympathy for his ego and hard (still useless!) work kick-in. Before I know it, I’m offering to make fondue for dinner.

“No, thanks,” my husband says. “That’s too much work. How about pizza?”

Exasperated, I throw a pizza in the oven. Then, I sit down to make out The List of what needs to be done tomorrow. I try to decide which three things I should ask of my husband, knowing full well there is a possibility I’ll come home to more polished doohickeys and shiny wedding presents.

And somewhere, somehow, Mom laughs and knows The List lives on.


October Dawn said...

Well, I wouldn't even consider leaving a list, verbal or otherwise. Generally, what one asks to have done will not be done. Therefore, consider what I ask of the unemployed "please find employment somewhere....soon."

The Beard Bunch said...

Ok, I felt like I was watching some sitcom---"the working wife and the unemployed husband" or "The List" or "Rules of Unemployment"---take your pick. Maybe tomorrow you should ask him to polish the doohickey and clean all the old wedding presents; maybe, he will clean behind the fridge.

Heidi said...

doohickey? hee hee.

Juliet said...

Of course I read your blog and do make
LISTS ARE least for some of us who are able to cross things off the list.

Love you deeply. Love MOM

Alice said...

Proof again that we are possibly married to the same person. Maybe we have him on timeshare.

a joyful nusiance said...

I am in total agreement with the list!! When my husband is unemployed, his idea of a list is Dharma and Greg, Home Improvement,
Cash Cab. You get the idea.

He also likes to start "little jobs" that he then never finishes b/c we don't have the money while he is layed off to even start these "little projects." I still have a 1/2 built wall in my basement. But I'm not bitter.