By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom New Mexico
I remember when a new priest, Father Juan Montoya, came to Portales in the 1980s. At the end of his first Mass he said, “Now let’s go home and do some gringo house cleaning!”
I’m not exactly sure what he meant by that. I think he meant some deep spring cleaning. Anyway, his words came to my mind last Saturday when I woke up and announced to my daughter Laura that it was cleaning day. Our place was overdue for some serious sweeping, mopping, scrubbing and vacuuming. Call it pre-holiday cleaning.
Naturally, Laura grumbled as I announced the plan of action. I would tackle the kitchen and living room if she scrubbed the bathroom. I ignored her complaints and started digging through my old CDs. I popped in a CD of the king of Tex-Mex music, Little Joe y La Familia, and cranked up the volume.
Soon, our dreaded work day was a makeshift pachanga, you know, a lively little fiesta. Our day of so-called “gringo house cleaning” had turned into a day of “Latino house cleaning!”
I then changed Little Joe, my hero from the 1980s, but nevertheless an outdated one for Laura, switching the jams to the fiery Norteño sounds of Los Tigres del Norte. That’s when things really got going. I started to feel like one of the seven dwarfs, whistling along with Snow White as we worked.
I’ve done this a few times before. Over the years I’ve learned that music can not only liven up a family fiesta but even a Saturday morning cleaning session. While I’ll turn on some of the newest hits in Spanish music for Laura, I also like to throw in some oldies for me, classic Tejano like La Tropa F, Mazz, Elida and Ruben Ramos.
Sometimes I see people having a bad day at work and think they could use some music to spruce up their workday. You know the kind of person I’m talking about? You see them all over town all weekend and they are as happy go lucky as can be. But once Monday morning comes, they drag themselves into work and have a look of pain on their face as they sit at their desk. Once the clock chimes at 5 o’clock though, they’re happy again.
Yes, maybe a little bit of music can help them learn to whistle while they work, too.
It may not be a bad idea to turn up the jams while you do the dishes as well. Some of the most memorable times I had as a teen in the 1980s were the Saturday afternoons I spent in the kitchen at Grandma Emma’s house, washing dishes with Paula and Becky. We’d listen to America’s Top 40 with Casey Kasem and would sing along to the latest tunes, “Pop Music, “Lost in Love,” “Celebration” and one of our favorites, Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.”
We never had that much fun washing dishes at our own house. Maybe the key was washing someone else’s dishes, not to mention the music. I don’t know.
But getting back to my own recent little makeshift party or pachanga, when all was swept, mopped, scrubbed and vacuumed, I turned the music off and announced that I was getting in the shower. And as I looked over at Laura, a little dirty herself from all that scrubbing and mopping, I couldn’t help but think she didn’t want our cleaning party to end.
We’ll have to do it again sometime … just not too soon.