Monday, April 19, 2010

"Spring Cleaning. Does Anybody Do That Anymore?"

I need a break from my break.

Because I am pretty hard on myself, and maybe a little OCD, I didn't let myself rest much during my spring break. I had a list of tasks I wanted to accomplish, and by golly, I accomplished (most of) them.

And I have the sore upper back to prove it.

That shower stall that hasn't been properly scrubbed since (and I wish I were exaggerating here) the fall of 2002 looks brand new thanks to 2 hours of scrubbing, a scraper, enough chemicals to turn any future children I might have into X-Men, and several Magic Erasers. Seriously, Mr. Clean, these things might be my favorite invention of the past decade, and I could live without my iPod before I could live without my Magic Erasers. For reals.

I cleaned the living room furniture, and I took down curtains and washed and ironed them. I even took the cleaning outside and did the most thorough landscape weeding and deck-furnture scrubbing I think I've ever done at our house. I replaced my first window screen and it looked so good after I was finished that I bought more screening so I can replace all the screens in the front of the house.

I surprised myself. I always give myself a lot to do over my breaks and I don't get to half of it. Napping always seems more important. But this time, at the end of each day, I stood in the main living area of our house, took a look around, wiped the sweat off my brow, and thought, "Damn. I am good." And then after Ains was in bed I did a shot of tequila to reward myself, but that's really neither here nor there.

Friday when it was all over and I popped that new window screen into a freshly-washed window, I started wondering why it was different this year. Why I actually got things done. And why had I almost enjoyed these tasks that I usually hate?

And that's when I heard the voice inside my head say, "Spring cleaning. Does anybody do that anymore?"

Which is the last thing my mother-in-law posted to her status update on Facebook before she went into the hospital the final time.

I'm not saying I heard my mother-in-law or anything. This is not a ghost story. But those words of hers popped into my head, and I realized why I had been pushing myself so hard to do a bunch of things I'd been putting off for, in some cases, years.

I do all this because I can. And because she can't, and never will be able to again, and really was not physically able to do everything she wanted to do in those last years. She took simple joy last year in the fact that she was doing some things in her home to make it a little cleaner, a little brighter. There's something to learn in that.

We've been through a lot, and I think I spent most of the winter consumed by a grief and loneliness I tried really hard to hide. The snow we were buried under didn't help. But something feels different now; the sun on my face feels a little warmer, my hands feel a little stronger and a little more capable. It felt good to scrub, to weed, to repair. I saw the results when I was finished. I left my world everyday a little better than I found it. It felt healing. There's something to be said for the kind of tiredness that comes from an honest day's work on your land or in your house, using your hands and your back and your legs and taking something that was wrong and making it right. It beats the heck out of the kind of tired I usually am after a day's work, a tired that's more in my mind than my body and makes my sinews tense and restless.

Spring cleaning. Does anybody do that anymore?

Yes, Kathie. Yes, they do.

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