Everjoy, our domestic worker, is a godsend. I know I do not pay her what she is worth because to me she is priceless. I am not a domestic goddess, I hate housework. I am so grateful I was born in the era of female emancipation, so that I can escape from most of the routine chores that would have governed my life in a different generation.
Everjoy wafts into the house and when I return from work it looks like a tsunami of household chemical smells and orderliness has descended on a home that had been almost teetering on the brink of chaos.
I am probably not a good “madam” because I cannot be bothered to go around with a white glove inspecting windowsills and the corner of cupboards for dust. She does her work and I love what she does ... most of the time.
There is a small problem in our working relationship – she speaks minimal English and I speak almost no Zulu. Her English is improving, thanks to television, but on the whole our conversations are a bit hit and miss.
Everjoy, who washes and irons and stows away the clothes, has a strange sense of humour when it comes to putting them away.
First Cheri bursts into my room with a raised eyebrow. “Mom, I do not want your dresses in my cupboard.” Then, minutes later, Greg comes in with his sister’s brassiere tied around on his head, saying: “I found this in my drawer.”
I decide that I will navigate this small laundry hiccup with some tact and put labels on the drawers and shelves for each item – socks, underwear, T-shirts, etc. They will be in English, because everyone reads English … of course.
There is a measure of success, as clearly Everjoy realises something is up and starts to sort things out a bit better. But my daughter’s T-shirts still appear in my cupboard, my son’s tracksuit in his sister’s wardrobe and the laundry merry-go-round merely continues – except for school clothes, as the uniforms are always distributed perfectly. Aiming for perfection, I proceed to add Zulu words to the labels. It is foolproof, surely.
“Mom! These are disgusting!” yells Greg, holding my very own Bridget Jones knickers aloft. Sexy beige granny brooks that fail in every respect to squeeze bulges into curves.“Eeuw,” he says. “I found these in with my underpants. Gross.”
Greg is right. I need to invest in some decent lingerie. But the cross-cultural language experiment is not working and I decide that some things are just not worth hassling about, although I did deduce a few things from the experiment.
A. We have too many clothes.
B. Everjoy does not see us often enough to know who wears what.
C. My labelling exercise was politically incorrect.
D. Everjoy wants my son to become a cross-dresser.
E. Zulu people are more relaxed about dress codes.