Hail to the Queen of Clean
The queen of clean has retired after 40 years. That’s my cleaning lady and friend, Snooks, so nicknamed by her seven older siblings after the long-ago radio show character Baby Snooks. We have shared Friday mornings for so long that it’s hard facing the end of the week without her (even though I’ve found a nice young woman who can see and clean better than either of us!)
Snook and I met as file clerks at Insurance Company of North America 50 years ago, when I was a college-bound girl whose daddy landed her a summer job and she was a working woman one year out of high school and already heading for a promotion because of her boundless energy despite a limp from childhood polio. We worked together for three summers. Then a dozen years later, through a series of coincidences, she to came to work for me, having given up an office job for a flexible schedule that allowed her to spend more time with her husband and four children.
Snooks knows me better than I know her—after all, she has done my laundry, made my beds, emptied my trash, cleaned out my refrigerator and tackled my gross makeup drawer. But I know her well, too. We have laughed together at our husbands’ idiosyncrasies, cried together when our dogs died, debated everything from Soft Scrub with or without bleach to the United States with or without Trump and Hillary. We know one another’s siblings, kids and grandkids and have attended family weddings and funerals.
My favorite Snooks story is of the day she invited my 6-year-old daughter to join her family for fall fun at her Pap’s farm. Off my little suburbanite went, excited to see the animals—and boy, did she! Turns out, it was the annual Thanksgiving turkey kill. Pap hacked off the bird’s head and it continued to run in circles, providing graphic story telling around our dinner table that night. The fowl murder didn’t thwart Libby or Snooks’ kids, though. All made it through college and are well-grounded professionals with kids of their own. So far as I know, they eat turkey.
Another favorite memory is of Snooks perpetually redecorating my house. Every week she carefully rearranged eight small cordial glasses surrounding a crystal decanter, placing them in pairs instead of in the circle I prefer. And much more. When she left, I simply put everything back where I wanted it. This ritual continued, words unspoken, for years.
Snooks retired because she needed to have her hip replaced, a casualty not only of long-ago polio but also, I suspect, from insisting on scrubbing floors on her hands and knees. No mops for her! And no fancy microfiber cleaning cloths like I just bought for the new cleaner either, thank you. She brought her own "rags."
I wish I had had a million dollars to give her as a going-away gift, because she was worth it. Instead, I gave her an elephant lamp—her favorite thing in the house. We’re taking her and her husband for dinner when she’s finished with rehab, something she agreed to only if I remembered that she “never gets dressed up.”
Snooks’ grandkids call her Grandma Purple, because purple is her favorite color. But purple also is a royal color, and my family will remember this great lady’s reign at our home with love and thanks.