The Good Living Room

Are you sick of me talking about Pittsburgh Dad yet? Well then you’ll want to bloop-bloop-bloop past this one because the most recent episode really brought back a memory for me, but not a memory of my father when I was young. A memory of my mother.

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Growing up with a family of seven in a three-bedroom/one-non-basement-dungeon-bathroom house meant chaos. Constant chaos (remind me to tell you about the time my sister Ta-Ta had to read out loud in class in school and she called it “CHA-CHOS”), particularly when we were young and my poor mother was stuck at home with us five girls all summer long with no car because we were also a one-car family and Dad took the station wagon to work every day. It was a sweet station wagon. Wood paneling. That way-back seat that faced backward, constantly testing the mettle of your little stomach to handle car-sickness as the world rushed by like you were riding a racehorse facing the wrong way.

I’ve digressed.  Our little house, which is now much bigger thanks to an addition, had one little living room. There was no good living room. There was a finished basement where we were to play and there was the upstairs living room. My mother attempted daily to keep a clean house. She basically spent a majority of her life trying to organize chaos in an attempt to keep her sanity while her five daughters whirled around her like tiny Tasmanian devils whipping around dolls and toy cash registers with crazed abandon. Cleaning up while we were awake was as fruitless as shoveling the walk while it was snowing (thanks, Pinterest, for that line).

So her grasp on sanity rested on one thing — keeping the living room clean, at all costs. Just the living room. And the way she did that was each day she cleaned that living room to a Miss Hannigan-worthy shine, vacuuming perfect lines into the carpet. Then she would take her vacuum cleaner and unhinge it so it lay across the entrance to the room.

Once that vacuum cleaner was in its place like crime-scene tape, the room was not to be disturbed. The room was Clean. It was my mother’s small oasis of organized peace in an entire madhouse of pandemonium and doom. Crossing the vacuum cleaner to retrieve ANYTHING was akin to Luke merrily skipping through the halls of the Death Star as if he was welcome there. A footprint on the freshly-vacuumed carpet could not only be detected, but easily measured to determine who the girl-child was who was brave enough to cross to the dark side.

Now, years later with an empty nest, finally, my mother has a clean house and a good living room that she doesn’t have to guard with a Hoover.

I bet you twenty bucks she kinda misses those days.

Thanks for reminding me, Pittsburgh Dad!


  1. Jim W.
    December 15, 2011 9:59 am

    Yeah. . . i kinda am. But maybe it’s because i wasn’t raised in Pittsburgh. Honestly, I’m not seeing the genius of it, and I detest laugh tracks, even though i recognize that the laugh track here is sort of an ironic addition . . . sort of a joke at its own expense.

    I like that it sparked nostalgia in you and generated a good story, so from that standpoint, it’s a keeper.

  2. Ali
    December 15, 2011 10:35 am

    Well I’m not. Pittsburgh Dad rules. ‘Nuff said.

  3. SpudMom
    December 15, 2011 10:43 am

    The WWF line is what killed me because I have two boys and I say that ALL. THE. TIME.

  4. Rich D
    December 15, 2011 11:03 am

    Our good living room had 2 entrances to it, which was a convenient shortcut from the front door to the other living room. Woe be it to the person who was caught using this shortcut. We were only allowed in that room on Christmas day!

  5. Amanda
    December 15, 2011 11:18 am

    Love Pittsburgh Dad! We eagerly wait for it every week and watch it at work!
    We had a station wagon with the “back back” as we called it with rear-facing back row. It was so entertaining to wave at everyone we drove past!

  6. bucdaddy
    December 15, 2011 11:29 am

    Eh, I guess I’m kind of OK with Yuengling Light, but really … I’d be much more impressed if Dad were waving around a growler from East End, or a keg from Penn.

  7. burgher-licious
    December 15, 2011 12:48 pm

    We had 12 people in our house – 10 kids. My mom tried to have a good living room, but that was a joke because there was nowhere else for all of us to go. But we did create havoc when we went to our aunt’s house who had a good living room WITH PLASTIC ON THE COUCHES AND THE FLOOR….oh yeah, she hated having our side of the family over.

  8. bucdaddy
    December 15, 2011 1:10 pm


    You had my Aunt Virginia too?

    Maybe we’re related.

  9. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    December 15, 2011 2:05 pm

    Then I may be related, too, @bucdaddy and @burgher-licious, because my Aunt Ginger (Geraldine was her given name) was exactly the same. Did your’s have the bowl with the plastic grapes in them?

  10. Bulldog
    December 15, 2011 3:26 pm

    ooooooooooooh, the plastic grapes. I used to love to play with those things and suck on them, or stick one on the tip my tongue and squeeze out the air so it got stuck on there…

    Then again, my mom had plastic grapes which she didn’t mind if anyone played with, and there were the “good grapes” that you couldn’t even look at without feeling her hot breath on the back of your neck…

  11. red pen mama
    December 15, 2011 4:28 pm

    My MIL *still* has a good living room. She calls it her lovely room, and woe to any of the grandchildren who encroach upon it.

  12. all5boys
    December 15, 2011 9:04 pm

    I can relate to this as well but my mom turned and as soon as there were grandchildren, she was fine with them tearing up the ‘good’ living room!

  13. bucdaddy
    December 16, 2011 1:42 am

    my mom had plastic grapes which she didn’t mind if anyone played with

    That’s dangerously close to a very weird euphemism.

  14. Jenny
    December 16, 2011 2:28 pm

    My grandmother had ‘that’ living room. The finished room in the basement was where the actual ‘living’ was done. We used to joke that we were surprised she didn’t have one of those velvet ropes, like in a theater/museum, blocking it off.

    When she wasn’t looking, we’d lay just outside on the hallway carpet and reach across the ‘invisible line’ to draw pictures in the freshly vaccumed carpet!!

  15. Padzman
    December 17, 2011 5:12 pm

    WWF? Didn’t him mean to say “STUDIO WRESTLING with Bruno Sammartino”!?

  16. Jen
    December 20, 2011 12:18 am

    Fabulous story! ha

    FIVE GIRLS. YOUR POOR MOTHER. *shudder* ;)