There are only a few shows that I record, a couple for Larry and a couple for me. But there's one that I set for the both of us, "Hoarders." That's because we are intrigued by these people who live lives so foreign to our own, surrounded by such a mountain of stuff that they can't use their kitchens or sit on their furniture or even sleep in their own beds.
We were a family of seven, so naturally there was a bit of clutter in our home. It didn't seem to bother my mother much, but that didn't deter from her insistence on having a clean house. She liked a freshly-scrubbed floor and would get down on her hands and knees to make sure it was done right. Sparkling windows were important as well, she'd have us wipe them down with newspapers to get rid of the streaks after they'd been sprayed with ammonia water. As for the bedding, our sheets were washed regularly and hung outside, even in the winter. After she had taken them down off the line, I remember her holding them up to her nose and then to mine, wanting me to take in the wonderful fragrance of the outdoors. Smells were important too, and I don't remember our home ever being filled with anything but pleasant aromas.
That's why I found one particular episode especially disturbing. The house was not only piled with junk, it was filthy beyond belief. I don't get it. People living with the smell of animal poop and urine in their noses is bad enough, but the worst, most offensive part was the bugs, specifically the roaches. Everywhere. In fact, when the pest control guys came, they said they had never seen anything like it, estimating not just thousands but possibly millions in that home. The vermin were on and in everything, even the refrigerator and freezer were full of them. As for getting a good night's sleep, forget it. The son complained he couldn't get one because the things would crawl all over him during the night.
I didn't know what a roach was until I went to college. I think I read that they can be found anywhere in the world except for Antarctica but I had never seen one up close and personal until I lived in a college dorm in South Carolina. My roomies and I were the closest to the trash shoot that ran from the third floor down to the first, and for some reason those nasty little critters weren't content to stay there. They decided it was much more fun to hang out in room 216. They would go scurrying across the floor when the light was turned on, hide in our drawers and drop out of our shoes. I emptied what was left in a coke bottle one night and a drowned roach went down the sink with the contents. I almost gagged at the thought that just moments before I had considered swigging down those last few gulps of soda. One night I was lying in one of the lower bunks and suddenly had the uncomfortable feeling of being watched. I lifted my head and found myself looking into the face of a large roach sitting on my pillow, its little antennae twitching malevolently. I had had it! I got up, turned on the light and proceeded to move all my bedding to the top of the three-tiered bunk where I slept for the rest of the year.
I don't have a clue as to why the school's so-called exterminator could not eliminate our roach problem. Supposedly he tried, or so they said, but nothing worked. One night we were so fed up that the four of us armed ourselves with every aerosol can we could find, including our spray deodorants, and went after the varmints. We took out every drawer, went into every closet, pulled everything off every shelf and started shooting. It felt good to be on the offensive for a change, we had killed dozens of the enemy that night. But we also knew what we were up against, that for every roach down there were dozens in hiding just waiting for us to leave or to turn off the lights. And then it would be party time all over again.
It would be a lot of years before I went to war with the roaches again. This time I would be living in La Ceiba, Honduras where I was sometimes seeing cucarachas the size of army tanks. I didn't know what to do. "Make cockroach cookies," I was told by another missionary. "It works every time." She gave me the recipe listing a few common kitchen ingredients along with the killer. Boric acid. "Mix well and then form into small patties," it said. Well, that was easy enough. I then proceeded to place the sweet delectables in every little hidden space I could find all through the house. And it wasn't long before I realized that it had indeed worked, the enemy troops were slowly disappearing.
During our first furlough I was speaking at a small rural church one Sunday morning while Larry spoke in another. I happened to mention the bug problem I'd had and being taught how to make the cockroach cookies. Larry later joined us for a potluck at the church where I had spoken when a gentleman sitting across the table from him cleared his throat, leaned forward and asked in all seriousness, "So what do they taste like?" "What do what taste like?" The man looked a bit uncomfortable. "The cookies, the cockroach cookies. Your wife said that she makes cockroach cookies. I was just wondering what they taste like?" And then it dawned on my husband that the poor guy thought that I was adding them to my cookie batter like I would chocolate chips! "What exactly did you say?" he asked me later. I shrugged. I had spoken on numerous occasions before that and often mentioned making cockroach cookies. I just figured everyone knew what I was talking about. Maybe they hadn't after all. No wonder we had received such great financial support. People thought we poor missionaries had resorted to eating bugs. Ah well, whatever worked!