Two weeks ago, I was asked to fill in for a housekeeper who’d broken her elbow. She is responsible for taking care of three gorgeous rental cabins on Spruce Mountain in West Virginia and should be able to resume her duties in two months or so. Although I was a bit hesitant, due to some back problems, I agreed to help the owners clean up a cabin the following day and see how it went.
Just days before, I’d spent a day and a half cleaning a local pavilion for a family reunion. It was very tiring, but very satisfying work. I wanted to see if my back could handle the added labor.
Well, Wednesday night, our Mennonite community had a clean up night in the church. I scrubbed the two bathrooms and was just about done in. I was trying to keep up with the rest of the crew and overdid it. I decided I’d better bring along an extra helper in case I couldn’t keep up with the cabin the following morning.
For the cabin, I planned a bit better. I took a pain pill and a muscle relaxer before I headed over to the mountain. That helped and I felt that I really would be able to take on this housekeeping position.
I am quite surprised by how much I enjoy doing the work. I cannot imagine a more pristine setting – the view from the cabins’ decks overlooks Germany Valley and right now, all I can see are green leaves and trees everywhere. Fall must be beautiful from this vantage point – and a winter scene of snow everywhere would be so delightful! As I drove up the narrow mountain road this morning, two deer crossed the road in front of me. Definitely beats any prior commutes I’ve had!
Besides the great setting, the cabins themselves are a pleasure to work in. The owner built them – he’s a carpenter, and the care he took shows in every little detail. The angles of the roof peaks are mitered perfectly, the handrails of the staircases leading to the cabins are routed on the edges and sanded smooth on the ends. Really nice. It’s truly a delight to work in such a structure, a privilege to be entrusted to keep it clean and inviting for the next guests.
One more advantage to cleaning these cabins – my spine is actually feeling stronger than it has in decades. I cannot imagine a better place to head for physical therapy! And I’d much rather do something truly worthwhile that sit at a machine doing exercises.
I probably like working in those cabins because my home is not exactly pristine – yet. When I moved in the end of June 2016, it had been unoccupied for over nine years. Cobwebs were everywhere and leaves filled the kitchen floor to a depth of about five inches. Two windows were in need of glass and admitted all sorts of night insects. I don’t miss those at all. I’ve made a lot of progress in the house, and had a lot of help doing so, but it is still in need of paint and scrubbing. A bit at a time, I’m bringing the house back to life. Tending to those rental cabins gives me incentive to tackle my own house as well and give me a bit of a vacation from the chores back home.
This past Monday, more than 150 people gathered at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church in Paterson, New Jersey to honor the contributions of janitors in the community. Housekeepers, maids, janitors – all have similar jobs. I have always respected the folks who kept my classroom warm, clean, and repaired as needed. When I’ve stayed at hotels, I appreciated the care taken to make sure the room is comfortable. And now that I’m a housekeeper, I take pride in making sure the cabins are just what the guests are looking for. I realize that it’s the housekeeper whose touch in each cabin is one of the factors that can make or break a guest’s visit. I scrub spots off of the stainless shower fixtures, scrub any spot that looks out of place, basically treat the cabin like it’s my own and family’s coming to visit. Grandma was born in Barry, Ontario and we used to be encouraged to “clean as if the Queen is coming.” Well, the Queen is welcome to visit here!
Saint Teresa was canonized by the Catholic Church on Sunday. One of my favorite quotes is attributed to her and I think it’s fitting to close this reflection on doing small things with it.