Rhona Scullion discovers why her mother said those things she said.

When we were little, my sister and I were joined at the hip. She hero-worshipped me and I thought she was useful to have in case I needed someone to blame at any point during our many misdemeanours. We remained close despite this blatant manipulation on my part and for most of our childhood and teens it was always the two of us against our parents, teachers and any other authority figure in a 10 mile radius. We would bicker and fall out and generally do the awful things that sisters do to each other, but were fiercely protective if anyone else joined in. It was an unwritten rule that we always took each other’s side and stuck up for one another in a fight and for the most part this was not a problem. That is, until I left for university, moved out and she was left alone with my mum (as my dad now works abroad) with two years of school still left to get through.

I learned how frustrating it is to live with people who never cleaned or tidied or took any responsibility for their actions. Something I had never given a thought to when my mum had yelled constantly about how annoying it was to have to follow us around with a dust pan and brush. Suddenly the messy side of myself which for years had been the dominant left me as I couldn’t deal with living in other people’s filth. It stressed me out to the point where I didn’t want to go into the kitchen and face the piles of dishes and cutlery that had been sitting, stewing in leftover grease for days on end, let alone the toilet which became almost nightmarish to try and clean. The way some of my ex-housemates lived and expected others to live horrified me so much that I essentially became a clean freak – hoarding dusters, bleach and dettol in large quantities so as to be always prepared for whatever foul sight might greet me as I opened the door.

Now while my mother lauded me as some kind of heaven sent deity of cleanliness my sister was not so happy. The comparison between us, at least in my mother’s eyes, was not a particularly flattering one for her. While I now keep my room near spotless, help with the laundry and the dishes without being asked and don’t stay in my sister’s room because you can’t see the floor, she remained typically slovenly. In fact she seemed to get even worse as I got better. Her room became like a black hole where everything that entered was swallowed up and never seen again. Occasionally, it would spit out a dusty and most often broken remnant of the past which we had looked for unsuccessfully years ago, but more often than not the many layers of clutter and dirt proved to be an impenetrable blanket that concealed everything.

This might not have been too bad but for the terrifying fact that I began to echo my mother. Before I had a chance to think, I would hear her words coming out of my mouth. I couldn’t help myself. If my sister couldn’t find something I would make some unnecessary snide remark about the fact that she might be able to if she bothered to clean once in a while. When she claimed that she couldn’t hoover for some ridiculous reason that involved the rugs being too difficult to manoeuvre, I derided her as a spoiled princess. The problem was that I had been, if not exactly the same, pretty damn similar when I was her age. I didn’t see it as a big deal, and as far as I was concerned if people didn’t like my mess then they had no reason to enter my room, and I was quite happy with that arrangement. I, like her, did not appreciate the difficulty and incessant nature of washing, cleaning, drying, cooking, tidying, managing bills, but most importantly dealing with other people who don’t take your feelings into account. To live with your own mess is one thing, but having to deal with other peoples’ is something else entirely.

Unfortunately my epiphany was seen by her as defection to the other side. We have never argued as much or as intensely since I have moved away. She would constantly tell me not to treat her like a child and to stop acting like her mother, while I would yell at her to grow up and to think about someone other than herself once in a while. It was horrible. We were both right, and both wrong. Neither of us has really changed our opinion – her room is still a bombsite with Christ knows what sort of bacteria happily multiplying away, and I still get frustrated that she expects a medal if she unloads the dishwasher. I’m just waiting for the day when she moves out and realises that I was right all along and that living in filth is for swine not people. And with that transformation to my middle age and motherhood complete, all I need now is a child of my own to whine at and clean up after. . .

Rhona Scullion

Image Credit – Sarahluv