As I sit here this morning, staring blankly at the computer screen while a load of laundry spins furiously 'round in a washer that insists on bouncing across the room at each cycle, I can't help but wonder what our maid, Tita L., is doing while on leave in the Philippines.
If she were here, she would likely be setting up the ironing board about now, preparing for her daily ironing session. Have I mentioned she loves to iron? Like, everything? Like the rumpled but clean sheets I am about to throw on the bed? She would make sure every last crease was nought but a memory before setting them down for us to toss in restlessly and crinkle shamelessly.
I, on the other hand, am much more practical. I will throw them over the mattress while they are still hot (old university trick ... you can avoid a lot of ironing by hanging clothes up while still steaming), figuring if we are going to rumple them ruthlessly within the space of 12 hours, why bother pressing? The fact of the matter is, I hate ironing. Hate it with a passion. Hell for me would be to stick me in a room full of clothes that has been lying rumpled in a hamper for a week and arm me with nothing but a can of starch, an ironing board and a hot iron. You simply could not pay me enough.
Yet Tita L. happily spends hours ironing everything from underwear to hair ribbons every week. For a salary that I have guiltily calculated works out to about 4% of Smilin' Vic's and my combined income. I often gaze upon her in wonder and amazement, truly perplexed at how she can find such contentment in this tiresome activity, smiling to herself as the steam rises from a skillfully pressed shirt collar whilst humming Air Supply and Celine Dion tunes.
What is it about the paltry salary and tedious chores that contribute so to her happiness?
I know it's not because this salary is going towards a month of luxuriating on a beach, getting pampered in a spa, or going on a safari expedition. So what could possibly bring such a smile to her lips as I watch her enraptured by the 5 foot high pile of laundry that separates us?
Ahhh, yes. I think I've got it. Tita L. is gone home this month to whisk around town on the scooter she purchased last year for her family.
She is flitting from store to store to choose the building supplies she needs for construction of her second house. She is gone home to approve the floor plans, to oversee the pouring of the foundation, to supervise erection of the walls, and to make sure the wiring is being properly laid out.
She wants to make sure the living room will accommodate the home entertainment system we gifted to her (save the applause, it was the annual gift from Smilin' Vic's work, and since we already had one it would have been silly to keep a second one even as back-up), and the flat-screen T.V. she won as a result of dutifully filling out the million raffle tickets I bring home each year from the grocery store (and am to lazy to fill out).
She is building this second abode on the plot of land she purchased three years ago in anticipation of setting up a small farm and house to sustain her through her old age.
She is building it right next to her existing mortgage-less house, which she will gift to her children so they can remain close and not have to worry about a mortgage, at least not in the foreseeable future.
I make a few quick calculations and realize that Smilin' Vic and I only have to work here another 24 years at well-paying jobs to afford the equivalent back in Canada as Tita L. is securing in the Philippines.
I think I'm starting to get the irony of ironing for a pittance.