Maggots with meatloaf. That’s what my maid, Mrs. Schneider, prepared for the two of us at dinner. I noticed the wild little wiggly creatures upon opening the lid on the Dutch oven. The seasoning bottle was slightly expired by just about 3 years and so those little critters were in heaven at 400 degrees.
You probably think life with a live in female domestic would cause me to become a spoiled brat. Contraire, I was not only her keeper at a tender age of 7, but she also became my slave, at times. Mrs. Schneider shared my pink chenille covered twin bedroom set with me and snored louder than a self-propelled locomotive. Only on occasions did her buns budge out of bed.
She became insulated into my cocoon. Meanwhile, I conducted scientific experiments nightly by placing Kleenex on her face in hopes it would soar into the air. In addition, her face became my canvas as I would take multi-colored highlighters and do fabulous face paintings. Her diet consisted of beer, martini olives, roasted peanuts and Cheetos.
She was so hung over each morning; her face painting really didn’t matter. I think she looked forward to her day-by-day facial persona.
My mother hired maids on a continuous basis and the first one to answer the ad got the job. The only criteria were that she breathed and was not blind. My mother never checked criminal and driving records. Orientation was my mother showing the maid the house and quickly driving away.
No reason for the maid to meet me. Trial run? Forget it. My family’s comings and goings would normally run them off. Except for Mrs. Schneider.
She was tall, bone thin, in her late 70’s with a few strands of gray hair in a bun. Long skinny arms covered with liver spots were attached to a torso resembling a dressmaker’s dummy. Physically, Mrs. Schneider was incapable of an involuntary smile. She always smelled of Vicks Vapor-Rub and stole my mother’s jar of Noxzema on a continuous basis.
Not to exert too much energy, she would occasionally spritz the room with air freshener. It was so much easier than actually “cleaning”. Feeling that the washing machine never got clothes clean, her best option was never to turn it on. Toilet needed scrubbing? Dream on.
My maid had no problem with walking over passed out bodies on the floor following my mother’s nightly dinner parties. Plus she was rather amused when I was called upon to snap up my mother’s full-length girdle. Mrs. Schneider held back a laugh when I was required to use huge amounts of strength snapping at the bottom of the girdle while working myself up to the top.
When the top layer of skin came cascading down over the restraint, interrupting circulation of bodily water and nutrients, my mother would yell, “Push it up!” Mrs. Schneider sat on the edge of the bed looking fascinated. She had no idea whalebones had such enormous force.
The other gastronomic experience I had was Mrs. Schneider’s raviolis in a can. Cold. A 7 year old never guesses it was tomato flavored Super Glue. But such is childhood when you don’t know what you’re missing. After my mother would slap a $20 bill on the dining room table, my maid and I headed to the Piggly Wiggly as though we won a grocery contest.
Up in the air and into the basket flew sugarcoated donuts, potato chips, and onion dip, red Cola for me and Jack Daniels for Ms. Schneider. Considering my daily diet of whipped cream éclairs for breakfast washed down by a variety of carbonated sodas and then whatever high sodium food group was available in a can, my ambitious skeleton miraculously grew into an adult.
During my tumultuous years of co-habituating with Mrs. Schneider, I experienced a fainting spell in the middle of an afternoon. My world went spinning and into darkness. Time passed. I heard voices and knew I was in a reclining position in a room with bright lights. “It might be polio. We should do a spinal tap immediately.”
I was in trouble. Darkness again. Time passed. Mrs. Schneider stood before my hospital bed with a Coke in her hand. “Drink it slow. You’ll be fine. We’re going home in a few days.” At this moment, I realized maggots in meatloaf weren’t all that bad. My live in housekeeper was with me at the hospital. With or without her bottle of Jack Daniels.