Vacuum and Chocolate

By Su Choe

January 29, 2021

At 10 pm, we changed into our clothes again. Mom and Dad told me to stay home, but I liked going with them. We got into a car, and after 30-40 minutes of driving, we arrived at one office building. It was not a tall building. It was a single floor building with many office suites. Before we entered the building, we put latex gloves on and wore Bootie Butlers over our shoes. Mom and I started emptying trash cans from each room and bathroom, and Dad came after us running a big and loud vacuum cleaner. 

Among the offices we cleaned, there were offices with piles of paper and a children’s dentistry. I especially liked cleaning the children’s dentist. The dentist was full of cute and lively characters, and on the reception desk was a basket of funny toys the size of fingers. The toys were probably a reward for brave little patients who survived through horrifying dental care. I also took the toys a couple of times after emptying the dentist’s trash cans as a reward for myself, who accomplished the night’s cleaning mission. And my mom always brought rewards for my dad and me at the end of our shift. The very last office suite she visited to clean also had a basket of welcome treats on the reception desk. My mom took three pieces of chocolate for herself, me, and my dad. 

“Sujin-ah, eat this.” My mom handed me a piece of chocolate and handed another one to my dad, who came out a little later than us, then our night cleaning was over. 

Today, after 17 years that night, my dad owns a cleaning company with 40 employees. He no longer runs the vacuum cleaner until late at night. However, his phone rings every night with text message notifications from his employees saying that the cleaning was done well for the night. 

Today, after 17 years that night, my dementia mom stares at the chocolate on my desk and says, “That’s delicious.” Mom’s sluggish fingers can’t peel the chocolate wrapper well. Instead, I peel the chocolate and put it into her mouth and say, “Umma, eat this.”