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To be of service to each other

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Sometimes my wife and I look up at the sprider webs on the wall and wonder how they got so high. Or we gaze at the splotched kitchen floor and wonder why the tiles have lost their original look. At other times, we're starting at the carpet the woodwork, on the bathtub and speculating as to who will deal with those matters. The question we both ask is, "Who is going to take care of that mess?" And the answer, almost simultaneously, is, "What we both need is a wife."

Having an old-fashioned wife for a working couple that has little time for clearning is the heart of the matter. After a day's work in the outside world, we have little energy or inclination to tackle lint, wall stains, and dust balls that scud about the place. Though we arrange things, keep our possessions in an orderly fashion, the more challenging demands of housework remain essentially ignored. But not without remorse, of course.

Of course we can call in those men who operate a quick-clean operation in a matter of hours. Four hours -- presto! -- the dirt vanishes. This, though, seems like an invasion of privacy, massive inroads on our private domain.

So what's left? There's the route of hiring a housekeeper, to live in and oversee the whole house. That seems a neat way of dealing with the situation. "Wouldn't it be ideal," we often ask, "if we had someone to follow us about to tidy things, to prepare dinner, to clean up after, to generally set everything right?" Aside from the cost, a live-in helper, even if she were excellent, would mean another person in the house. However unobtrusive, she is there,m and that means behaviour modification, which certainly does not appeal to my shoes-off, shirt-out look most of the time.

The reality is that we have to deal with the shopping, the cleaning, and washing and ironing, the sweeping and mopping, the polishing, and the thousand-and-one other domestic chores, and we've tried to arrive at a sensible arrangement. It's a matter of divvying up the ugly "musts" so that neither of us feels overwhelmed. We make lists in order of priority: "They Uglies," "The Musts," "Teh Not-So-Terribles," "The Easies." If there are four "Uglies," we take two each; that way, we share equally in jobs anathema to us both. It's our modus operandi.

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