Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring Cleaning!

There are some things a woman is born to do. Men aren’t capable of doing it, but women are mistresses of it. I’m talking about that yearly procedure designed to rid us of the old, the dirty and the worn out. Spring Cleaning! I grew up in a household where this ritual was faithfully followed and to fight it was to invite scorn from the top – Mother!

My mother was the mistress of cleaning. She could yank down the winter drapes, clean and polish the windows with Glass Wax and hang the summertime sheer curtains in no time flat. Then it was on to the floors. Mother was on a mission to get the house in tip-top condition. I can see her now: Broom in one hand, dust rag in another, eyes fixed on the next project … and her weary followers bringing up the rear.

All this activity was not confined to one day. There is no way on God’s green earth that the entire house could be cleaned to Mother’s satisfaction in one day. No, she usually managed to drag it out over a week. It didn’t matter if it was a week of the most glorious weather possible, we were doomed to spend the whole week cleaning. Mother was the southern Indiana version of a Whirling Dervish during Spring Cleaning time.

During this week, meals were “thrown together,” as Mother would say. Sandwiches prevailed while kitchen cupboards were emptied, dishes washed, fresh shelf liner put down and clean dishes returned to the cupboards. The job of cleaning the cupboards was usually relegated to me as Mother said it was “good practice.” I was never quite sure what I was practicing for – I didn’t plan to make cleaning cupboards a career, but I would never dare tell her!

In Mother’s world, there were people who were “clean” and people who were “not clean.” Now, this didn’t mean that the “not clean” people were dirty – it just meant that you might spot a bit of dust on the end tables or a slight smear on the mirror. Now, if you were really, really “not clean,” it was never stated outright. Mother would say, “That’s not a place where you want to sit down.” That was all; not an impolite word said, but we knew what she meant. Only twice have I heard Mother utter those words and, honey child, hogs would have been right at home in both places!

At some point in Mother’s life, she vowed to be one of the “clean” people and, in doing so, she brought me along with her. To this day, I can not ignore those springtime twinges that force me to dust, shampoo, sweep and clean. I would rather die than be thought of as “not clean” or have someone say they could not sit down at my house!

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