Day 7: An Escape by “Dreaming a Little Dream of Me”

The day was off to a rough start. As mentioned in my previous post, a co-volunteer and I had been directed by the cottage’s supervisor to wash the windows yesterday. Upon entering the cottage today, Sister informed us that our efforts to cleanse the windows to allow the sun to clearly shine through in the back room had been futile. She pointed out the “G” that she had drawn on the windows to confirm that dust remained. From the week I’ve spent in the cottage, I’ve gotten the impression that Sister is difficult to please and likes to have things done in a particular way. I was disappointed that we had let her down, but I knew that the windows were still dusty because we had used the wrong method for washing the windows. I had just learned last week at work that glass should be washed with a paper towel, rather than a rag as we had been directed to yesterday. Sister learned this method today from the housekeeper of the cottage, and gathered some paper towels for us to use. My co-volunteer was engrossed in a conversation with a resident at the time, so I was left on my own to begin the chore. Prior to starting the second attempt, a woman from a lay group associated with Little Sisters stepped in. She directed me to use newspapers instead with a mixture of water and ammonia. The next half hour was filled with spraying down windows and wiping them down with bunched up newspaper under the aggressive instruction of this woman. She had good intentions, but the way she went about directing me through the task made me feel belittled and dumb. She directed me to spray, then pushed her way in to take my place. She got my attention or moved me by gripping my arm. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was under the impression that she was instructing a 12 year old child rather than a 22 year woman. Growing up as the daughter of a Polish immigrant who cleaned for a living, I learned early on various necessary cleaning tactics and how to be quick on my feet. However, I couldn’t keep up with this woman, and it resulted in humiliation.

Once the arduous task of window-cleaning was done, my co-volunteer and I split to complete separate assignments. I took up organizing CD’s in the back room where we had attempted to wash windows before. I was glad to escape and focus my attention on a more relaxed task. As I was sorting the CD’s into piles based on their genre, from Holiday songs to Musical soundtracks, I came upon a couple of CD’s that automatically brightened the morning: I recognized on their covers the smiling face of good Ol’ Blue Eyes, the one and only Frank Sinatra. I realized I had stumbled upon a collection of swing and other 1940’s music. I began singing a few songs to myself as I continued putting away the CD’s.

Swing music is my go-to, with its rich but light-hearted rhythm and lyrics that are essentially charming, romantic smooth talk in musical form. I don’t find the same satisfaction or escape in most contemporary music as I do with swing or jazz. One of my life’s regrets is that I wasn’t alive when swing was big and Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and other artists of the ’40’s and ’50’s were stirring up crowds in music venues around the country. I guess hearing the assortment of records by these artists on my Pandora Swing station and watching them perform on old videos or even musicals (On the Town, Anchors Away, etc.) shall suffice.

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