Since Nadya has left me, my life has undergone a drastic change. Nadya was my cleaning lady for the last seven years, I should rather call her my cleaning queen. Even her entrance into my home every Friday was not short of pomp and circumstance, she used to ring the bell, knock on the door repeatedly, and at the same time call out my name in two different keys, one major and one minor. She wanted to make sure I knew she had arrived, until I was finally surer than sure! Nadya was a presence who diminished my own existence in this house literally and figuratively. A beautiful blue-eyed and blonde Valkyrie, she towered over me and over most other women. She also ruled my life:
“You need a warmer blouse! Wear a sweater it’s cold outside., and the blouse you are wearing should be tossed into the washing machine anyway!’ or:
“You collect those plastic bags like crazy, what’s with you, you behave like an old woman!”
“I’m no longer young!” I tried to remind her.
“Yes, yes, I know, but you don’t have to behave as if you were old!”
She throws out all my plastic bags with great gusto and I watch helplessly not daring to object! I’ll have to hide them someplace, but there is no hiding place from Nadya..
“Your fridge is empty, she notices, you better go shopping this morning!”
Once she approached my keyboard, stroked it with her .well-manicured fingers and complained:
“This thing doesn’t make any music at all”
”You have to switch it on, it’s electric” I told her.
“Why switch it on? Did I have to switch on my piano in my home? A musical instrument which has to be switched on isn’t worth a thing. Just throw it out and get a real piano!”
She did not suggest where I should put a piano in my mini apartment, this is a problem which even Nadya could not solve!, At the end she learned how to play Russian melodies on my keyboard and sing along too.
“Come on, sing with me, she encouraged me, and we did – quite loud too. A wonder that the neighbors did not complain.
With all that activity, she still managed to clean my home, and it was amazing how fast and how thorough she did that. I was not always happy about how she decided to change the location of things saying:
“It’s boring to see the same thing on the same place all the time, this chair will be moved to here this vase has been standing on the book shelf for ages, now…now we’ll put it up here!”
Nadya managed my life. I often felt like a little girl again, and I wasn’t sure that I liked it.
But when she came to say good-bye, we both cried. Nadya embraced me and enfolded me in her arms. When Nadya hugs me I tend to disappear, like a little chick under the wings of the mother hen.
“Look, she explained to me, I found a place where I get more decent pay, a good lunch,
and a nice pension plan! I have a family to think of!”
And now I have Vicky. How could two cleaning ladies be so different from each other? This one enters my home quietly like a little mouse, I hardly know when she arrives. She says a quiet good morning and disappears into the bedroom. She doesn’t care about my keyboard, she doesn’t even lift the sheet which covers it in order to find out what’s under it. She works so quietly, and although she has the same vacuum cleaner as Nadya used to have, the noise it makes is two octaves lower than the one I knew before.
“Will you sing some Russian songs with me?” I ask her. But she blushes and is embarrassed. It took me 3 weeks until she finally agreed to “Katiusha” along with me in a high, tremulous soprano and hiding her face. She disappears into the bathroom and I notice it’s awfully quiet in there. Where is Nadya’s noisily moving bottles and jars from one place to the other? I start to worry, could it be that Vicky fell asleep? Shall I knock on the bathroom door? .
Knowing Vicky she may be frightened by my interference.
Things have changed so much! I have a big stock of plastic bags and Vicky doesn’t care. My sweaters are in a chaotic state, Vicky doesn’t care which should go into the washing machine and which not. She moves through my home as if she would be wearing a cloak of invisibility. And she does me a personal favor when she sings, maybe she doesn’t like singing at all and doesn’t dare tell me!!
However, she keeps my home clean, and whether there are fringe benefits or not – I really shouldn’t care!
But God only knows how I miss Nadya!