Marilyn Englander: Hard Work

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 (Marilyn Englander)

Stock brokers and tycoons brag about how hard they work. But they probably can’t match Marilyn Englander’s sister.

My sister is an artist who lives in a mountain town where people vacation. Few artists manage to make a living creating beauty, and my sister is no exception. She has a “day job” to support herself. She cleans vacation homes.

She enjoys solitude for thinking about her art, so the work suits her. But the job is grindingly hard.

One winter morning when I was visiting, I went along with my sister to clean. Paid a set rate for each house, she has to hustle to fit in two big ones a day.

At the first house we lugged heavy bags of towels and sheets up three flights of stairs. In five bathrooms, we were on hands and knees disinfecting tub and toilet, then doing touch-your-toes up and down the shower walls. We mopped floors, then skated around with rags on our feet to dry them. Vacuums buzzed upstairs and down.


The kitchen revealed pizza crust cemented to the oven rack, the broiler thick with steak grease. Plates in the dishwasher were crusted with food, the refrigerator splattered with gooey spills. Not to mention the sticky, blotched kitchen floor.

Though it was snowing outside, we were sweating and breathing hard, our hair falling in our eyes. But we got the place sparkling in three hours — and slogged on to the next house.

I think of my sister a lot since the shutdown. She suddenly lost all of her income, and doesn’t know when she will make money again, like so many others who do exhausting, sweaty work in people’s homes or yards.

No one ever thanks my sister for making those vacation homes shine. It’s just her job. And seldom do any of us praise those who routinely do that kind of hard work for us — because it’s for pay. Maybe a sweet outcome of these tough times will be sincere gratitude for those who labor to make our lives easier and more pleasant day in and day out.

With a Perspective, this is Marilyn Englander

Marilyn Englander is a North Bay educator.