Once a month, Rita comes to our house and, like an angel of cleanliness, wipes down the kitchen countertops, mops the floors, vacuums the carpets and even cleans the toilets. After she leaves, the house glistens as if it’s new. And it is pretty new – we moved back into it a year ago this weekend. But a year’s worth of eating, drinking, walking around, brushing hair, washing and other daily activities can make a house looked very lived in. Now, piles of papers, toys and random objects clutter every horizontal surface, paw prints mark our kitties’ daily meanderings, and crumbs around the couch are evidence of some pretty messy evening snack habits. I try to keep the house looking as presentable as I can, but it’s like trying to push back the tide. Thanks to Rita, I get to enjoy a clean home for a few days a month, before the tide sweeps over it once again.
Rita came to the United States 24 years ago from El Salvador. She is a little younger than me and has beautiful, wavy chestnut hair and a dazzling smile. She recently explained to me that she used to work in an office but didn’t enjoy it as much. She prefers cleaning houses, as this work allows her more freedom and flexibility, is much more relaxing than stressful office work and gives her a sense of satisfaction of completing each job. Today, we worked quietly together, me sitting tapping away on my laptop polishing the final pages of my translation work and Rita polishing the various grubby surfaces of our home. Our circumstances are admittedly different, and the fact that she cleans up after my messes makes me feel guilty and uncomfortable, but essentially, we are both hard-working women who have come to this country to find professional fulfillment and a good place to build a family life. Today I gave her one of my scarves, a chocolate colored one with a narrow and subtle strip of pink dots, a modest, pretty scarf. I explained my giveaway blog to her. I am not sure she will be able to read it all, but I want her to know I have nothing but admiration and gratitude for the work she does and the grace and integrity with which she does it.