Housekeeping À La Television

ANNE KELLEY was a reporter on the Seattle POST-INTELLIGENCER after her graduation from the University of Washington. She is now a housewife and mother of three children.

A glorious new design for gracious living has come into our home via television. I don’t know just whom I have to thank — some inspired adman or, more likely, adwoman, I surmise, who saw poor old average me sitting there at the other end of the picture tube, a harried harridan on the verge of the Gray Sickness.

Just for me, she devised the better way, and flashed it to me electronically. And oh, what drama it has wrought within my home!

Only this morning, as my husband and I sang a duet together at the breakfast table — he in his dandrufffree smoking jacket, I in my filmy peignoir — he said to me, “Sweetheart, your hair looks as if it had been soothed by ten thousand loving lingers!”

“Ah, yes,” I mused. He leaned forward to light my filter-tip cigarette. “And remember how it used to look? As if it had been tended by two unfriendly thumbs.”

He nodded, chuckling. Then we ran through another chorus of our song, “Brusha, brusha, brusha —”

“Shall we meet at three for skindiving, dearest?” he asked, as he rose and nuzzled the nape of my neck. “We’re living modern now, you know.”

I was so happy I could dance, so I did, with the vacuum cleaner for my partner, First, of course, I changed from my peignoir into a tight sheath and my highest heels. And to think I once wore blue jeans and sneakers — and got down on my knees to clean under the sola! But that was before my adwoman showed me the carefree way to vacuum, as delicate as croquet and far less tiring.

I shuddered a bit at memories of the harassed old days, when I was a screaming mommie with jittery nerves and acid indigestion who snarled if the youngsters muddied the kitchen floor.

“Come ahead, darlings, I called to them now. “ Tromp around all you please. Wouldn’t you like to pour a little raspberry jam on the floor, too? You know how it pleases me to be a smiling cleaner-upper, you little messer-uppers, you! And don’t forget leave the refrigerator door open as long as you like, just the way the pretty lady docs on TV.”

Humming softly to myself, a little tune my adwoman planned just for me, I changed into a simple silk dress for a look in the laundry room. Yes, there it was, my family wash churning through its cycle in the automatic. I gestured toward it with my tapered index finger, then quickly muddied seventeen towels and tossed them in, just for kicks. Soon, I knew, the whole wash would be hanging bright-white from the line against a backdrop of cypress trees, and I should be able to run up and down beside it, my silken tresses shimmering in the sunlight. I would be wearing my deceptively simple little pastel linen by that time, of course.

To bring a smilier smile to my youngest daughter’s face, I picked up the iron and flourished it over the sash of her dolly’s dress (which was, naturally, pre-pressed), then put the steaming iron flat on the I board and danced off to see what was doing in my kitchen. All was in order, as usual. The luncheon sandwiches were busy wrapping themselves in wax paper, and as I passed by, a square of paper toweling detached itself from the roll and floated into my soft, white, right hand. I had only to pat the toweling daintily on the floor, and presto! the mud and raspberry jam were gone, along with the dried mustard spilled from my husband’s midnight snack.

I picked up the scrub brush, mop, and chisel I once used and threw them out the window.

Then I stood at the sink with a tin of detergent and spoke, pleasantly but firmly, to the breakfast dishes.

“Dishappear!” I told them, and they obeyed inshtantly. I blew them a kiss as they vanished into the cupboards (a little ritual I learned from guess who).

Then I was off again, tripping upstairs for one of the gayest interludes of the day. Soaking several pieces of wet-strength tissue in lotion, I dropped in all my jewelry — diamonds, emeralds, rubies — piece by piece, kerplunk, kerplunk. How exhilarating! And to think that tomorrow I could look forward to my other favorite hobby, filling my bone-china colfee cups to the brim and lifting them in tissues! The very thought of it made me so giddy I almost forgot to pass out tissue boxes to the children, pink to the girls and yellow to the boys, so that they could skip through the house playing that charming new nursery game called “lift out one, out pops another.”

And then it was time for my thirtyday hand-lotion test, in which I have so gratifyingly kept my left hand from finding out what my right hand is doing. What a sly little joke! The left hand simply cannot understand why it remains so rough and red.

I just had time to remove two stubborn calluses and perform the underarm circle test — ah, there’s a merry one! — before tossing a little fur about my shoulders and giving myself a home permanent.

Next I dabbed a bit of antiperspirant on my forehead and plumped myself in a 140-degree steam cabinet, delighted, once again, to find that while I passed out, my forehead did not dampen in the slightest.

Fresh, then, in my new St. Laurent (the one with the smocking top and bloomer bottom), I mamboed into the kitchen, where the children sat smiling at table, their hands clean, their napkins folded neatly like dear little party caps atop their wellbrushed hair.

“Look, Mommy,” they called in unison. “Clings like cloth!” Overhearing this, our miniature butler muttered, “Guess I’m not needed here any more” and vanished into the woodwork.

Observing that one-fourth cup blanched, slivered almonds and a few sliced truffles were waiting for me, I quickly stirred up the dinner casserole in advance although, of course, it was unnecessary, as a duplicate of the dish, already baked, winked out at me from the oven.

Then, recalling my promise to live modern with my husband, I rolled my hoop skirt into a corner and was off to the beach with one final word of caution to my children.

“Remember now. No homework and no practicing the piano except between commercials. Just sit there by the TV and pay attention. We don’t want to miss anything our ad woman has planned for us!”

My husband was waiting for me at the wheel of a new sports car.

“Girl of my dreams,” he murmured, with a deep sigh. “And not a whisper of bad breath.”