Skip to content

COLUMN: You’ll hear from Gram if it’s not clean

Certain phrases become so ingrained in a family’s lexicon that they’re repeated for years to come.

There are certain phrases, once uttered, that become so ingrained in a family’s lexicon that they’re repeated for years to come. They don’t have to be profound, they just have to be verbalized at the right time to create a moment memorable enough that when a similar situation arises, the phrase is trotted out in all its glory. 

I was reminded of this familial vernacular last weekend when my wife and I were doing a bit of early spring cleaning, specifically using baby wipes to extract an inordinate amount of dog hair from the cloth headboard in our bedroom. 

It didn't take more than one wipe for us to be able to not so proudly proclaim: “These people are pigs!” 

That phrase traces its origins back to January of 1999 when my wife’s grandmother was helping us clean our recently purchased first home, which, let’s just say, hadn’t been left in pristine condition. Not only weren’t the previous owners terribly neat, but judging from the copper-coloured tar running down the walls anytime they got wet, it’s a good bet that at least one, if not both, had a pack-a-day habit that didn’t include any rules about stepping out onto the patio to have a puff. 

Horrified by the condition of pretty much everything, Gram would frequently repeat the ‘pig’ line, or some version of it, bringing a smile to our faces as we slogged away to rid the place of its layer of grime. In fact, that day is so burned into our memories that 25 years later we still find ourselves using the phrase, usually to point an accusing finger inward for some kind of cleaning transgression that would have left her disgusted. 

You see, Gram was from an era when a thorough cleaning meant washing the walls and pressing the drapes, so not many people these days are likely to live up to her exacting standards, but there are times, hopefully not too often, when we don’t even meet our decidedly more lenient criteria. Case in point is the aforementioned headboard. 

Given we share the bed every night with a 90-something-pound shedding machine, it made sense that some of this black hair would affix itself to a cloth headboard, although I must admit that it did a pretty fine job of camouflaging itself. 

We’re wise to how it hides in the carpet, so much so that a few years ago we bought a teethy, and invaluable, little tool that extracts a frightening amount of hair even after we’ve vacuumed. As we get on our hands and knees, moving from the stairs to the hallway and into the bedroom, a line of furry little balls forms in our wake as the tool unearths hair the vacuum couldn’t pick up. 

It stands to reason that the dog’s hair wouldn’t only end up on the carpet — the dryer lint trap offered another clue — so in hindsight it’s not surprising the headboard contained such damning evidence. 

Unfortunately, the situation allowed us to come to one sobering conclusion: “These people really are pigs!” 

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks