18 April 2006

The Many Miracles of Elizabeth John

Elizabeth John's father was from a mostly pleasant and polite family in rural Wisconsin. His father worked on a dairy tending cattle, while his mother kept a good, clean house, the sort of house any respectable woman of the day would be proud of. In addition to being good and clean, the house was also neat and tidy.
Mr. St. John was only ever home to eat, sleep and read the newspaper after Sunday services at the local church. Elizabeth's father, Christopher, was often regaled by his mother with all of the shortcomings she saw in his father. The three main complaints of the long and varied litany his mother produced that had an effect on young Christopher were that his father had no respect for the work of women, in raising children or tending house, his father always made a mess of things that some poor woman would have to clean up, and that his father was never home to help with any chores, repairs, or miscellaneous labor.
Mrs. St. John attributed the last of the three to a laziness on the part of Mr. St. John, that his time was always spent working in gainful employ was, to Mrs. St. John, not proof of a strong work ethic but concrete evidence that her husband was stupid as well as lazy. Believing thusly, and convinced that her other children were likewise lazy and stupid for having afterschool jobs and friends, Mrs. St. John forbid such luxuries for Christopher, her youngest, and taught him all of her homemaking skills through a process involving many sticks and no carrots, to which she was allergic.
The St. John household was not welcoming, nor comforting. It was to no person a sanctuary. It offered no respite or peace of mind. It was, however, clean, neat, and tidy. A memorable thrashing awaited Christopher if anything grew dusty, dirty, or out of place.
He swept the walls and ceilings thrice daily to keep the dreaded cobwebs at bay. Every window was washed twice a day, inside and out. All of the dishes, used or not, were washed after each meal, even the fancy china that Mrs. St. John received from her mother-in-law as a wedding present and never otherwise left the china cabinet.
The wood and tile floors were swept hourly, and mopped each night after the rest of the family had retired to bed. The carpets were swept before school and in the evening with the very same carpet sweeper that Mrs. St. John had grown up with, as she abhorred the ineffectiveness of a vacuum cleaner.
The piano and other wood furnishings were dusted twice daily, both times in the evening, and waxed to a high shine every third day. Christopher was only required to weed the lawn and flower garden on weekends, so that it would not interfere with his schoolwork.
Mrs. St. John was very adamant that Christopher not play with any other children. Even his siblings, the youngest four years older than he, were considered filthy useless beasts. The neighbors houses were practically barns, with dogs and cats running about, children frolicking hither and yon, and mud tracked in so thickly covering the floors that a person could almost see it. Mrs. St. John felt quite justified in keeping from such dirty and disgusting places the only child of hers that could understand the importance of cleanliness, sanitation, and hygiene.
Christopher did his best to please his mother, even when she made him hose himself off in the yard each time he returned from someplace she had conceded to let him visit. The schools were appalling, the restaurants atrocious, and the doctor's office disgraceful. Christopher's schooling didn't fare well under the circumstances, and while at school he was unable to make any friends to speak of or with. He was always impeccably dressed and groomed, but he never managed to complete a single piece of schoolwork sent home with him. Notes from teachers were always returned with a complaint by Mrs. St. John of illegibly poor penmanship, even on the notes that were typed.
It was only by the kind graces of his eldest brother, Kevin, that Christopher managed to break free from the virtual imprisonment his mother tried to keep him in. Kevin helped Christopher get a job at a hospital in Colorado, near where Kevin worked. The job wasn't very prestigious, it involved cleaning blood and detritus from operating rooms and sanitizing them for the next surgery. The job also didn't pay well, but it was enough for Christopher to get a small apartment and afford enough material to keep it immaculate.
Christopher worked there for five years or so, when the hospital decided that a good education was the foundation for good service, and required all of it's employees to commence continuing education or be let go. Christopher wasn't very keen to go job-hunting, having already found his perfect niche in life, one perfectly suited to his lack of people-skills and the beaten-in obsession with scrubbing things, so he enrolled at a nearby community college. They had an accredited program for cleaning operating rooms, and Christopher naturally assumed that he should do that first.
One of the classes required by the accrediting organization for the program was a class on cultural and gender awareness in the workplace. He wasn't aware he had needed any awareness of things that weren't there, since he usually worked alone, but he tried to keep an open mind, even if the chalkboards were filthy, the carpet in need of replacement, and the ceiling tiles stained by leaking water. One of the other students in the class was Deborah Johnson, and that is how Elizabeth John's parents met.

Goe, got stuck on the idea.

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