person holding happy birthday cake with lit candles

Last week was my birthday. Unfortunately, with a pandemic in full swing, I didn’t partake in my usual week of birthday festivities which would have included dunking booths, cotton candy machines and me sitting on a homemade throne with my droves of fans lined up to shower gifts upon me. Oh wait, I think that was in a dream I had. Oh yeah, that was the dream where they all started chasing me with brooms and Swiffers and I had to hide in my 3rd grade classroom and do math to escape. It didn’t end well. Forget that dream.

Anyway, it was a pretty low-key birthday, as in I worked. But all last week I did wear a Happy Birthday pin to remind my clients of said birthday to try and squeeze at least some extra doe out of them. Of course half of them don’t even notice anyway. For some reason Midge thought I was wearing a fishing lure. I told her I will make them fashionable again.

And I will say, you really don’t know a person until they have to remember something important about the person that cleans their toilet. All year long I get how wonderful I am and “I don’t know what we would do without you!” Until my birthday comes along and it’s “Oh we’ve been so busy. Here’s my dead plant I was going to throw out tomorrow” or “I got this half-eaten sandwich for you!”

half eaten sandwich

I went to the Bachelor’s house on my actual birthday. Luckily he saw my pin as he was leaving. “Happy Birthday!” he said as he rustled around in some drawers, obviously trying to find the gold watch he had bought me. Then he opened the fridge. Strange place to put my present, I thought. Then he pulled out an uncooked steak in the packaging and handed it to me. “Oh you shouldn’t have,” I said cheerfully.

“I remember you telling me how much you like steak,” he said.

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned steak in the six years I have been cleaning for him, but since he clearly remembers me gushing about my love of a good slab of USDA prime-cut, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. “How thoughtful of you!” I guess it’s better than a half-eaten sandwich.

Old Ironsides always has a gift for me, although her gifts usually resemble something an 80-year-old would want rather than a 40-something. This year it was a 90 page book of inspirational quotes about transitioning to senior-hood, which is about 20 years off for me, but I might as well get a head start on it. I suppose I can read one chapter a year. I’m sure that will age me.

Then she wanted me to bleach the grout lines in her bathroom. As I was on my hands and knees with a toothbrush scrubbing 50 linear feet of grout, I hear from the other room, “Don’t scrub too hard. You don’t have to work that hard on your birthday.” Uh huh. I really need a new line of work.

The Artist is always a toss up. She usually paints me a picture, but the subject matter rests on what mood she is in at the time of painting. I’m at about 5 paintings of dark storm clouds and 3 of flowers and rolling green pastures. But last week, she just handed me a blank canvas and said “Happy Birthday.” I didn’t know if this was her current mood–blank with a lot of white space, or if I was supposed to paint my own birthday present. If that is the case than I can add a stick figure painting to my collection.

Midge always remembers my birthday, only because of the simple fact that our birthdays are two days apart. I always bring her a nice gift. And she always forgets to put extra money in my check. Just as she did last week. She even mentioned birthday money as she was writing out the check. Then she handed it to me and it was the same amount I always get. Do I say something? By next week, she won’t remember what month it is let alone that we just had our birthdays. Oh well, maybe next year. Or I could try subliminal messages.

Me: *whispers* Cleaning Lady Birthday

Midge: “What dear?”

Me: “I didn’t say anything.” Money, Birthday, Money

I’ll let you know if it works.

Luckily I don’t have to count on my clients to make my birthday special. My family and friends do a great job, and without all the hollow platitudes that come with a client/cleaning lady relationship. As I’ve said before, the cleaning lady is not your friend. I have a firm grasp on my position in the hierarchy of my client’s lives. But at least try to acknowledge your cleaning lady’s birthday in a genuine way. If not, that toilet might not get so clean next time, or maybe there’ll be a half-eaten steak floating in it.