I’ve been reading Kristin Hannah’s new book The Four Winds. It is set during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years in the Texas panhandle. The main character, Elsa Martinelli, is a strong, determined woman who labors fiercely in order to provide for her children. A bleak landscape and lack of employment cause great suffering. It makes me realize that while we have faced our own hardships with COVID19, my family has been fortunate to have food, clothing, employment, and the things we need. I am grateful indeed.

Inspired by the tireless work ethic of Elsa Martinelli, I decided to attack my kitchen floor as if the Dust Bowl had been through town. The “lick and a promise” I have afforded that floor in recent months would make my mother turn over in her grave. I confess it has been a while since I cared much about housework. No one is coming over, right?

As I gathered my supplies, a memory kept flashing across my mind of my mother on her hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor. Back then, a good scrubbing was followed with a coat of wax. My mom knelt on a folded bathmat to protect her knees. I saw myself as I used to see her. I wondered why I never offered to help or do it for her. (She probably wouldn’t have let me.) I remember her saying that if you wanted the floor to really be clean, you had to get down on all fours.

So with Mr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap, a bucket, a brush, a sponge, and several cloths, I got down on my hands and knees and started scrubbing. First, I put extra soap and water all along the grimy edges where the floor met the wood moldings. I let that sit for a few minutes. Then I began the attack. I scoured that seam with a vengeance. An old toothbrush helped. Then I scrubbed a row of tiles with the sponge, followed by a wipe down with clean water and a wet cloth. Then I dried the floor with another clean cloth. I repeated this process for the next hour as I moved the trashcan, chairs, and recycling bin out of the way taking care not to bump my head under the table. Man, I worked up a sweat!

Somehow, when it was all done, I felt my mother closer. Maybe she was even a little bit proud.

Happy to be here. Thank you Two Writing Teachers.

6 thoughts on “Inspired by Elsa

  1. There’s nothing as laborious in house cleaning as scrubbing the kitchen floor. I need to do mine too. And it looks the same from generation to generation – on the floor with sleeves rolled up, bucket and scrubbing tool!

  2. This has been a hard year, but like you we have been lucky in so many ways. I appreciate your reminder: “It makes me realize that while we have faced our own hardships with COVID19, my family has been fortunate to have food, clothing, employment, and the things we need. I am grateful indeed.”

    Your post has me thinking I need to give our floors a good old-fashioned scrub. Oh my!

  3. I love the multiple ways you described connecting with your mother throughout this piece, and the vividness you brought to describing washing your floor. (I’m impressed! I now feel like I should do the same….but know I won’t.) My mother, too, washed the floor on hands and knees. Your line, “I wondered why I never offered to help or do it for her. ” tugs at my heart.

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