Tag Archives: spring cleaning

A Clean Sweep

Been cleaning for Passover, a yearly ritual greeted with equal measures of excitement and dread. It’s such a pain! There are so many details! But if not for Pesach, would I ever take a toothbrush to the cabinet doorhinges or run a toothpick along the grooves of the roller-drawer supports, driving every last bread-y and pasta-ish crumb from my cupboards? I love the gleam of white, the crumb-less corners, the knowledge that even though no one else will notice, the undersides of my counter are as clean as the top. Were the freezer’s grey rubber seal a four-year-old boy, it would squirm and grimace at my wiping fervor.

There are all kinds of discoveries… the missing skewers that played hide and seek beneath a stack of dishtowels; that box of cornstarch I knew I had bought; the last bit of rubbing spices my son brought back from a trip out West. We made some mean burgers with the mixture.

The sweetest find was a gift bag sandwiched in between a dozen others of its kind. dscn11941
How had I missed it in years past? Inside the bag were fifty-two slips, each numbered with a quality I loved about my husband. It had been a birthday present, one slip for each year of his life.

I sat down on the kitchen floor and began to read: 42. I love your dedication to family. 2. I love how we call each other and get busy signals. 17. I love laughing with you. Some were poignant: 8. I love how you make silly noises with McKenzie. Next month makes a year since we had to put our sweet dog to sleep. Another, now obsolete, has been transformed: 36. I love how you study with Elliot so he can succeed. These days such father-son conversations run to workplace advice. One referred to a virtue trumped by the economy: 35. I love that you are meticulous with our investments and finances. Sitting there amidst the unswept crumbs and bits I read every single one.

We’re coming up on 29 years. Throwing and tossing have their place. Better by far is what we hold onto.

Summer Cleaning

Been a whole lotta cleaning going on this summer. Seems everyone I know is pitching, storing, trying to get a handle on their “stuff.” A child is leaving home (and leaving stuff behind); another is returning (with a whole new batch of stuff). And after two decades plus there is just too much stuff and somethinghastobedone NOW!

Spring cleaning and summer cleaning are completely different animals. Spring cleaning greets a new season, throws open windows to let in sunlight and fresh air still tinged with winter. Spring cleaning looks forward. It’s frenzied, carried upon the crest of pent-up energy.

Come the tail end of summer only the wasps are frenzied — still building their damn grey paper condos in the space between our storm windows. It’s too hot to climb tiptoe to reach that last speck of dust. Summer cleaning means retreating to the cool of the basement. It’s sitting on the floor, sifting through boxes and inhaling the mustiness and memory of old letters, baby clothes, and cards signed with paint-smeared handprints no bigger than a plum.

Must my husband save a two-foot high stack of Sports Illustrateds? Surely the players have all been traded or sentenced for drug possession or sidelined with hamstring injuries. Do I really need to hold on to my grandparents’ hardsided grey valise? It reeks of cigarette.

My mother and grandmother saved every letter I ever wrote to them and so I spend time with past selves, reliving my junior year abroad, first job jitters, homesickness at sleepaway camp. I open a sealed envelope and see the heavily scrolled border of the page within. A forgotten bearer bond! But no. The document is merely an appraisal for my mother’s Persian lamb coat, the coat that used to hang in the hall guest closet. My favorite hiding place because I could always count on finding a few quarters in the coat pockets.

Spring cleaning decisions are a cinch — toss, toss, toss. Who names a dust bunny or cries to keep it? But summer decisions are hard. My husband insists he will read these magazines. Who am I to deprive him of the pleasure of reading? I save my grandmother’s suitcase because every time I slide those metal latches and lift the lid I inhale the shadow of smoke exhaled by her very breath. I am five-six-seven-eight and with her once again. Spring cleaning heralds the start of a new year. Summer cleaning tells us time, so much time, has passed.

And so I sit and cull. Remember and toss. Save and savor. The garbage bags grow bigger. The boxes in which I save grow smaller. And then I come across two blue plastic spoons molded into the shape of airplanes. We bought them years ago in hopes of feeding grandchildren one day. I make a note so I do not forget where I put them. In a box. Tucked away for the future.

Just in case this has made you too wistful, click here for George Carlin’s classic take on stuff.