Did you have to do chores growing up? We did. Are you kidding? As soon as we were walking, mom and dad put us to work. When we were really little, one of the first “funeral” chores I remember doing was picking up flower petals off the floor on our hands and knees. Chrysanthemum flowers are a very popular funeral flower and when my dad would set up the flower baskets around the casket and funeral home, the petals of those flowers would fall on the floor. For some reason, the vacuum couldn’t pick them up, it would just roll them around. So, my dad would make the four of us, or whoever was around, crawl around on our hands and knees and pick up the petals. I guess my parents eventually got a better vacuum cleaner because I don’t remember crawling around on my hands and knees when I got older unless I was drunk. Oh, and I can’t look at a chrysanthemums, carnations or gladiolas and not think about funerals; very popular funeral flowers. Check it out next time you’re at a funeral. We also had to dust the caskets, but that was easy.
Another chore we had to do was to sweep the gutters outside the funeral home. My dad didn’t want any trash around so we would go outside with these giant push brooms and sweep the whole front and side of the house. It was a little embarrassing when you’re a teenager and your friends drive by and you’re outside pushing a broom like you’re doing community service. Sometimes he’d make us wear orange vests 🙂
The chore that sucked the most was polishing all the door knobs around the funeral home. I’ve polished a few knobs in my day and no matter how good you are at it, it’s still a chore 🙂 We had brass door knobs all around the outside of the funeral home and we used this brass cleaner and a rag, and it was a time consuming, pain in the ass to do. My dad was really particular about it and would check our work when we were done. Whatever you do, don’t get brass door knobs, or better yet, don’t live in a funeral home with brass door knobs and crazy parents.
When it came to the look and chores of the funeral home my dad was meticulous, but when it came to regular house chores, Cis was in charge. My mom’s real name is Mary Beatrice, but since childhood she has been known as “Cissie” or “Cis” for short. I think that’s better. Mary Beatrice? Really?
Anyway, while we were peacefully watching TV, Cis would come walking in the living room, cigarette in hand, and start barking out orders, “Kris, clean the bathroom, John, empty the trash, Celeste, dust and vacuum.” (Remember, I can’t mention my oldest sister.) Mom is a bit of a clean freak mixed with a drill sergeant, but in her defense, she had a lot going on. In addition to trying to raise us, she was also helping my dad with the business; answering phone calls, greeting families and styling the dead ladies hair. She also had cigarettes to smoke and cocktails to drink every night.
If I ever went to my mom for money, it came with a job. For example, “Mom, can I have money for the movies?” Her response,“Sure, go downstairs and clean all the mirrors and dust all the shelves, and clean the bathroom!” That’s why I’d usually ask my dad if he was around. But it was all about timing with him. If I hit him up for money when he was busy, he’d toss me a 5-spot to get rid of me. But if he was relaxed and sipping a Miller High Life, I’d say, “Dad, can I have 5 bucks for the movies?” His response, “I don’t have a 5, but here’s a 10 because you’re cute.”
I wasn’t getting that shit from Cis no matter how many glasses of wine she had. You had to EARN it with her. One time she made me dust this 5-foot plastic apple tree leaf by leaf! I don’t know which was worse, having to dust it leaf by leaf or the fact that we had a little plastic apple tree in the funeral home.
Now I want a Manhattan…how early is too early?