Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Saturday Morning Maid

Her name was Kathy. Did we really call her the maid? I can't recall, but the memory must have come from somewhere. Did Mother need a Saturday morning maid? Perhaps. With four children, a husband, and one to three brothers' in law to cook, clean and wash for, perhaps she did.

This is a bit of guess work really, but I think Kathy made the beds, washed the breakfast dishes, swept and mopped the floors, sorted out washing, ironed, cleaned the bathroom and made lunch.

Meanwhile Mother readied herself and us to attend the afternoon football match, perhaps an hour's drive away and in the evening,  the local dance. When the local ladies kept her at arms length and described her as a city person, she went on to play the part with no clothing or shoe expense spared. Her clothes came from city shops, well Oakleigh, Chadstone and the City. Her makeup was expensive and shamed the locals' touch of lippy and dab of powder. The teenage girls of the area took note of Mother's style, and copied her. Post the football season, the maid still came. Perhaps it was an attendance to the tennis then.

Kathy used to flirt with my uncle. I expect they did the biz at some point. Mother must have found out and in a rage of jealously, she sacked 'that filthy bitch'.

There was a replacement maid, but I can't remember who she was.

After years of neglect, Father finally had enough and bolted to the comfort of a lady he knew in town who went on to become Step Mother. The once very profitable farm struggled on until it was sold, with Father commuting between his 'slut' in town each evening and daytimes working at the farm.

The farm was eventually sold and so how did Mother support herself and her children? She become a maid, well a housekeeper for a gentleman with his own children in South Gippsland who was happy to accept Mother's three children. I was away on my own by then. It did not turn out to be a Brady Bunch scenario. When the South Gippsland gentleman started to behave in an ungentlemanly manner, Mother fell on her knees before her father, who took in his daughter and grandchildren into his home for a time. He prevaricated for a time about buying Mother a house in  spite of three adults and three children living in a house meant for two adults. The constant bickering in the house was becoming intolerable and bless Tradie Brother, the mud pies he started throwing at front door brought the cheque book out and nearly four decades later, Mother is still in the same house he bought for her.

Should you have a maid, treat her kindly. You never know when you might become one.


19 comments:

  1. Thats so true - have done a fair share of paid house cleaning in my day and its a hard slog when working to someone elses's hours - learnt a bit of humility, but learned to be proud of what I did no matter what it was...as well being Australian...people with airs and graces, new or old money have never phased me - more that they amused me

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    1. MC, it is odd to see how other people live and their reactions to having paid help.

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  2. Hello Andrew:
    This is indeed a cautionary tale. We are definitely of the view that one must cherish those who look after one be they maids, waiters or anyone else in service. Being kind and considerate costs nothing but is worth so much.

    Timea our housekeeper we call'National Treasure' since that is how we think of her and treat her. Long may she reign over our kitchen!

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    1. JayLa, Timea does sound like a true treasure. To have a trusted housekeeper must be a wonderful thing.

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  3. Can't stop to chat. Busy making mud pies.

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  4. Everyone needs a job that is well paid, is interesting and has good working conditions. So I was never snooty about domestic jobs being Non U or not. But young girls who worked inside the closed homes of comfortably-off families were typically exploited and totally unprotected. To this day, I still cringe when we talk about maids.

    By the way, I am willing to bet your family didn't call Kathy a maid. It sounded too Edwardian, too posh. Australians had cleaning ladies or mothers' helpers :)

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    1. Hels, maybe there are now in Australia, or maybe not. They certainly are overseas. I think we kids called her the maid. I truly can't remember how my parents referred to her.

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  5. Many years ago my Union Official ex-flatmate insisted on paying our cleaning lady the award rate despite the fact she'd asked for significantly less - in cash!! Ironically, we ended up getting rid of her because the Unionists with whom my ex-fm associated castigated her for having 'help'!!!!

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    1. From each according to his means, to each according to what I say?

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  6. Cleaning ladies are the salt of the earth. I only wish I could afford one now in retirement. We had quite a few in our working years, I loved coming home from work on cleaning day and find the house spick and span and all the ironing done. I never sacked any of them. They all had to leave for their own personal reasons.TOH always used to joke I employed ugly ones and if he was choosing he would hire one with big boobs. I hate cleaning day now because I am the cleaning lady. (with little boobs so TOH still loses out.)

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    1. TOH is silly. Big boobs just get in the way when you're doing housework.
      And if you are the cleaning lady now, that means you are the salt of the earth !

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    2. Diane, it must be a nice thing to come home to a spotless house. Oh, that happens for me already, but without paying. Ah, you pay in some way in the end. Maybe it is time to avail yourself of some council services, a subsidised cleaner?

      FC, not something I had thought about, but I can understand.

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  7. Wow ..... I think there's an autobiography lurking within you, Andrew, and today is the first day of NaNoWriMo, so get cracking!

    I was a nanny and a housekeeper for a few months in London and learnt quite a few lessons about how some people treat others.

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    1. Thanks Kath, but no, not for me.

      I think some rich English can be particularly nasty to their help.

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  8. I've been a maid twice, once at 15 and again at 23. Both times I was treated well. In later years, at 48, I was a cleaner for a company, doing the offices at one location and cleaning up the facilities and factory floor at another. One of the supervisors was so impressed with my work, she asked if I took on housecleaning and would I consider her as a client? I said no. I'd had enough of cleaning and took the job with Coles instead.

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    1. Strikes a personal chord with me River, as R is involved in cleaning at times now. I say to him, we will get a cleaner in as you can't come home and clean as well, but he does, without complaint.

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  9. P.S. I agree with Kath, there's an autobiography waiting to be written.

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    1. I don't think I could put a coherent story together. Maybe I could, but I enjoy blog writing and tell myself I don't care too much about it as it is fun. I am not sure I would want to be judged as a writer. Besides, all families are interesting. I think it is the way that they are written about that makes them larger than life.

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