On Tuesday morning, after the Christmas holiday was over and our trusty housekeeper, Carmen, returned to work, I showed her the tablecloth from Christmas dinner that I’d saved especially for her. Why, you might ask?
Because this beautiful white linen tablecloth now sported a dazzling array of stains and problems — the fairly common red wine spill, a large puddle of what had to have been candle wax, thoroughly soaked into the fabric (although David denied any knowledge of such thing — even though it was in front of his place), the expected gravy schmear, and a goodly smattering of ashes and charred bits from where my mom managed to catch her napkin on fire.
And now that tablecloth is as white as new snow, not a single sign of these previous transgressions. How does she do it? Well, my answer is really the only one that seems possible — she’s a magician. Not the sleight of hand type, but the Merlin-the-magician type. Real magic . That woman is magic with stains, that’s all there is to it.
Now, despite that being my take on the situation, Carmen looks at it rather more practically. And she’s understandably concerned about how in the world I’m going to get anything clean when we move — coming up very soon now — to Salt Lake City. I told her that I thought the only answer was that she come with us, which I think pleased her.
(She actually is a bit worried about how we’ll manage on our own, and from what she’s seen of us so far, it’s not an entirely misplaced concern!)
So… later that day, after her magic had been wrought upon my stained white linen, she brought it out to show me. First, in a way, to shyly show off that yes, she had done it again. But much more, to her, was the opportunity to explain to me how she had done it, giving the “recipe” so to speak and demonstrating the technique.
I suspect more than both of those, the true magic is patience. We gringos tend to want things to happen quickly — spray that dang thing with some kind of magic treatment that will make it all better and throw it in the wash — and ticos have no orientation at all to “quickly” so the fact that removing stains takes patiently scrubbing the fabric against itself for long enough to work the stain out, well, that’s the real magic.
We will miss Carmen, and not just because she’s a magician at stain removal. (Did I mention that she’s a fiend for ironing?) No, we’ll miss not just her whirlwind of activity, her floor mopping and dish washing, but even more her sense of truly taking care of us.
And who doesn’t need a little taking care of now and then? The fact that we’ve been blessed to have it five days a week is something we’ve truly enjoyed, and will deeply miss. I now know the secret to taking stains out of my tablecloths, but that won’t ever replace Carmen!