When a client asks me to hire for them a new housekeeper, I first focus on the requirements of the job: does it involve laundry; to what level must the cleaning be done; is cooking required? are there children? I always write out a job description and I make a list of my expectations beyond what the client has expressed, such as tone of voice, or lightness of foot. In the search and interview process, I keep the focus on the job requirements rather than on the home, the clients or the potential person to be hired. First I need to know if they can do the job. And yes, they are always given the oral version of The Housekeeper's Quiz. Everyone expresses afterwards how thorough that quiz is, and that they enjoyed it. Ha!
But because working in private service requires a boundary between personal and professional lives and spaces, I do not go too deeply into the candidate's personal lives. (Yes, there are also federal guidelines about what you can and cannot ask during an interview, and I stay within those boundaries of course.) During the interview, I'm not so interested in their son's ability to sink three-pointers in basketball, or their daughter's keen interest in turtles. I want to know if they can do the job and what kind of worker they are. Yes, there will be a thorough background check, but that will come later.
When a candidate is hired and while I'm doing the training, I continue to keep the time together focused on the job and the requirements of the clients. We are work colleagues, not best friends. It may seem cold and insensitive to approach people this way, but in private service, it is best. Now there does come a time when the formality of the work environment begins to change, and it is a natural evolution of the formality rather than a presumed familiarity.
And that's where the many talents of Rosa comes in. I hired and trained Rosa in 2012 to work for clients here in Chicago. She's a terrific housekeeper who arrives on time, properly dressed and does a fantastic job at caring for one of the finest homes in the city. I knew that Rosa was born in another country and had been in the States for 14 years. I knew that she was married and had no children. It's been a professional relationship that has, throughout the year, grown into a friendship. She's very funny, bright of course, and does the most amazing handiwork:
For Christmas she gave me a handmade gift for my Mom (she thought my Mom was visiting me for the holidays). I was so impressed with the gift and so interested in how she did it, that she brought in some of her samples to show me. In the above photograph you can see that she has removed threads from a piece of fabric. I'm sure this technique has a name, I just don't know it. If you do, please let me know in the comments section.
Then the open spaces are tied or filled with needlework to create detailed and amazing cloths to use on the table. Rosa is of Mexican origin and she explained that these cloths are often used to hold tortillas at the table. "But they can be used anywhere you like.", she said when I told her I thought they looked like hand towels.
This pattern is a rose, appropriately enough.
This pattern is fashioned after an elaborate earring.
A basket with flowers.
An elaborately tied design with a crochet border.
It was very special to have Rosa share her handiwork with me. I hadn't been aware of it before, probably as she's not aware of my fencing skills or book collection. But these things happen as they should happen, and it's all the more enjoyable when they do.