Saturday, September 04, 2010

Survivor's Guilt

I have a lady who cleans my house every week. Her name is Clara and she's really great. She lives in my old neighborhood and offered to clean our house when we moved a few years ago. Then she came over to our new house and gave a us a bid for cleaning it weekly. She has a good business going and does a great job. Certain areas of my house never get gross, my kids get sick less often, it takes a huge amount of stress off of me, and it lets Christian off the hook because he works so much and can't help out around the house as much as he [I] would like. I love and recommend it.

That said, my relationship with Clara is complicated. I find myself trying to impress her by cleaning things myself. "Wait until Clara sees how I organized the kids' closets! She's going to be so impressed." And when I'm having a bad week and I leave a huge mess for her, I feel shame. When that happens I try to leave prescriptions out so she'll know/think we've been sick. Or I leave my sewing machine out so she'll know/think that I was busy with a sewing project and that's why my house is a mess. Or something. Thursday is the day Clara comes and it is my best day of the week. Wednesday night, however, is very stressful. I just don't want Clara to think I'm a slob or that my kids are lazy. I backed into her car once and have written her checks that bounced. She basically knows everything about me.

Well, Clara's house burned down a few days ago. Like, BURNED DOWN. As in, everything in it is gone. Poor Clara! We heard immediately because it's across the street from our old house and we know a lot of people in the neighborhood. I dropped everything and rushed over because I feel very close to Clara. She makes my life better and easier. I think of her almost every day as I make decisions about whether to leave her a mess or impress her. I invoke her name when I lecture my kids, "You think it's Clara's job to pick up your dirty socks???!"  It's probably kind of unhealthy, actually. I know she doesn't feel the same way about me--why would she? I'm just another client to her. Maybe she thought it was weird that I rushed in hugging her, intervening with the Red Cross, and bringing her a bag of clothes from Ross including pajamas and underwear. It was weird, I guess. But I have gotten better about not caring when I do weird things. Her house burned down. 

She has homeowner's insurance and will, hopefully, be OK. She couldn't even go into her house after it burned to try to salvage anything because it is condemned. Can you imagine? The Red Cross will be helpful but they told me they don't provide things like housewares. I have no idea what she'll be getting from the insurance company. She met with them Thursday--I'm sure there's a lot of red tape to go through. And, of course, her ward will provide a lot of help (even though Clara is not a Mormon).  Mormon's love to be of service in situations like this. We mobilize. We're ready. I like it. Do non-member victims think our enthusiasm in these situations is weird? We don't care!

Clara's house burned on Tuesday. She still wanted to come and clean my house on Thursday because she needs the work and the money. Now, I know I am but a peripheral character in this tragedy and if this weren't my blog I wouldn't presume to make it about me BUT--I feel like such a jerk having her clean my house! My house that is full of junk which I throw on the floor and don't take care of and which also--oh yeah--didn't burn to the ground! But she wanted to come. She said it took her mind off it. What was I supposed to do? I gave Clara an unexpected raise a few months ago since she had given us a good deal when she started and has been working for us for three years. I'm glad I did and I feel good about it now but when I gave her the raise she asked me why. I tried to explain (she speaks Spanish), but since I gave her the raise she started staying longer to do my house and has started doing the laundry while she's here. So I've been worried that she thought I was paying her more because she wasn't doing enough work and now that her house burned down I feel even worse. But I'm glad I gave her the raise. What's  a middle-class white person to do! I know. I KNOW I'm a jerk. That's what I'm saying.

If you are interested in helping out Clara, e-mail me.  Maybe we can put together some stuff for her to make-do with until her insurance comes through.


  1. This is awful. I feel so horrible for her! I want to help. You know I'm ready for this. Because I don't know Clara personally, it makes me even more ready because I just want to help without any conflicting issues. Basically, what I'm saying is that although it's my nature, I won't cry. Well, I might, but I'll do it after I meet her. This will help me be productive. But I do feel strangely connected to Clara--because in tragedy, our instinct is to clean. I respect that.

  2. Anonymous8:17 PM

    I would be happy to help. What is needed?

  3. I think i'ts funny that the comment above mine offers to help but remains anonymous.If that had been me, I would have said, "I have a half million-dollar check for Clara. What else can I do?--Anonymous."

    Anyway, I am really sorry about that. I get how you are feeling--love how you've worded it-- and I hope the best for Clara. Also, Lisa's comment made me laugh (I've been tidying up quite a bit since losing my Grampy Thursday--Lisa's totally right). I think I love her.

  4. Anonymous7:05 AM

    I apologize for being so vague but I was hoping you might just post some needs for Clara. I would be happy to help with $$'s, food, clothing etc. Please let me know how to get it to you or her.

  5. I really appreciate everyone's willingness to help out Clara. One person who e-mailed me suggested sending gift cards for Clara and I think that is a really great and convenient idea. I haven't heard back from her about how the insurance is going to work out but I'll let people know if there are specific things she needs. E-mail me at kacy dot faulconer at gmail dot com and I can tell you where to send or drop off stuff for Clara. Even you, Anonymous :).

  6. Years ago a home burned down here in our town. It was 2 or 3 days before Christmas. In church, the bishop asked for donations for the family - they were not LDS either, but it's not a big town and we are all pretty big-hearted - I like to think that anyway!! I was pleased and impressed that my children suggested we give up some of the wrapped gifts under our tree - so that the family could have some Christmas cheer also. (Either they knew what I'd already bought and wrapped or they were assuming any family with kids would want and appreciate the gifts!)

    That said, we did give up some of the gifts under the tree - and I think our Christmas was a little more significant that year. So I will mail you a check and trust your good judgment about needs.

    Also, your thoughts on having someone who cleans were "spot on" as they say. People at my house always say, "But why are you cleaning? I thought your cleaning lady is coming?"

    My standard answer? "I'm paying her to clean, not pick up after you!" I'm pretty sure my kids with cleaning ladies say the same thing to their kids too!

    Thanks for caring enough to involve the rest of us!

  7. Anonymous6:52 PM

    wow you over think things.

  8. We had some friends who had this happen. And you think if you have insurance you will be ok.
    And then you realize that no matter how much insurance you have, it is not enough. Just think about replacing EVERYTHING. It's never enough.

  9. As I was leaving a comment I looked down and the word verification was "Loopay". I smiled, then laughed, then looked around nervously because it might be too soon.

    I'm sad about that house though, it was cool because it had a hobbit-like underground den.

    You are a good person.

  10. i truly feel bad for clara and her plight. truly. but i am also sad that you & i can't be friends anymore because you have a cleaning lady.:(


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...