© 2010 Sandra Jean-Pierre
I’ve been mopping the floors of my home for fourteen years.
I generally start at the front of the house, at the threshold of the front door and work my way back to the Florida Room. The breadth of my mopping exploits can stretch from my bedroom bathroom clear across to the breakfast nook – the entire width of the house.
I’ve mopped through funerals, a birth and after parties. I’ve mopped up juice, milk, blood, throw up, pee and ice cubes, melted from the heat expressed by the fans at the bottom of the fridge. I’ve mopped early in the morning before anyone was awake and late into the night, while most everyone was asleep.
I’ve mopped with a bucket full of water and either bleach, Mr.Clean, Fabuloso, laundry detergent powder (even liquid) or just when I had enough cleaner to wash out the mop and then to fill my bucket with plain water.
I’ve mopped with professional janitor mops, using 8, 10 or 12 inch cotton hairs, flimsy plastic covered, metal handled mops and unconventional shammy haired mops. I’ve mopped when the floor was pre-swept or when it wasn’t. I’ve mopped during the winter when it would take the floor longer to dry and during the summer with the front and back doors propped open. I’ve mopped using old washed out paint buckets, short pinny-anny buckets and wringer buckets where you place the mop hairs in a chute and squeeze out the water using a lever on the side.
I’ve mopped when my arms were at their strongest, allowing me to reach, with my then obedient fingers, into the murky, semi-soapy Kool-Aid/sour milk/bathroom smelling water. I’d cradle the thinning hairs between my fingers and wring out the water with the knowing of a bereaved and bereft mother, missing her child, mourning her life. I’d mop out sections of the different floors in the different rooms, using the strength of my upper body, until I no longer could; when arthritis in my chest began to get so bad that I had to find another way. Till my upper body could no longer support the back and forth motion and the weight and drag of the mop. Till my muscles and coordination became too weak to cooperate.
I’d mop with my legs then, when my legs were capable enough to allow me to pivot from my chair to my bed with assistance; I’d hold the mop handle in my left hand, drive my chair with my right hand and use the muscles in those same legs to guide the bottom of the mop across the tile, wiping away the filth, making the floor glisten. I’d mop with my slippers on, with my work shoes on or barefoot. I’d mop in my “good clothes”, without my foot pedals, with my purse still on or straight home from the doctor, grocery shopping or back from the Food Stamp appointment.
I mop now, with the aid of my Nephew, washing and wringing out the mop, changing out the bucket water, setting things up. He mainly hates it, so I don’t do it as often as I would like. I leave my foot pedals on now, I usually have my shoes on too.
Mopping our floors has been my meditation. When there wasn’t enough money to pay our bills or buy food, I’d have someone run the water hot and I’d seek out the steady and deliberate repetition that mopping brings. It was a way to think through my depression, our hunger, the lingering and collective worry. The clean smell of bleach and Fabuloso was generally all I would need to calm me down, while the back and forth sway of cleaning the floor reset my emotions, my thinking, my heartbeat. When I would be done, I would emerge a more centered, calmer version of myself, full of ideas, full of new hope, full of determination.
My siblings would think me crazy for mopping so much and so often. They either didn’t realize the amount of mess they made or maybe I just needed that time to be by myself, in myself. In all the things that weren’t, mopping made sense. It made more sense than court dates and guardianship papers or dejection and fear. There is a science to it, unlike any other uncertainty in life, that typically ensures that what you put in, you get exponentially more out. Water, bucket, bleach, some type of soap (but not too much), mop and time would give me clean floors and new understandings, peace of mind and worth, while the happenings out side of our doors, would by and large rob me of those things.
I’ve mopped the tiles when they were vibrant faux marble looking, with pink and gray veins running though their patterns. I mop them now when the shiny glaze has been worn away by foot traffic, wheel traffic, life traffic. I’ve mopped through tile changes, bursting a/c pipe works, painting mistakes and regrets. I’ve mopped through arguments, despair and a rodent infestation. I’ve mopped when it didn’t make sense to, when things would have been made better by lighting a match and not looking back.
I’ve mopped with tears streaming down my face and pain creaking through my body. I’ve mopped with a heart full of ache and a mind full of confusion. I’ve mopped post-overdose, post-house getting fixed up, post-family being spread out. I’ve mopped when everyone who needed to, realized the importance of living, fighting, sticking and staying.
I’ve thrown out buckets of water black as tar, stink as sin and full of death and longing. Rinsed out buckets lined with a thin slick film of sorrow. I’ve washed away scum, mistakes and incidental indiscretions. My fingers have been pricked by shards of glass, slivers of disappointment as thorny as steel wool and malevolent splinters entangled in deceivingly thin cotton strands.
I’ve mopped when the mop hairs have begun to give way, rotten and disintegrating into the very water that was to make them clean.
I’ve mopped till family has come back, grown up, grown older, gotten better.
I will mop until there is nothing more that needs to be cleaned.