Friday, October 5, 2012


Monday morning this week, I made a mistake, a big one. I went into the guest bath for some totally forgotten purpose, turned on the lights and for some insane reason which also eludes me now, put on my glasses and suddenly I saw the truth. There it lay before me, plain and simple, what I had been in denial about could be put aside no more. My house, this bathroom for starters, was gross.

With the help of my peepers, I could now make out the hideous shapes of the varying parts of bug parts on the floor and mysterious black dog hairs in the sink. I won’t even go into the toilet, no I mean what it looked like. It too was past the point of civilization. It was time for a spot of elbow grease, clorox, paper towel rub down, and a finish with a mop.Two hours later and a vacuum bin full of more black dog hairs, ( we don’t have black dogs but my daughter brings her laundry out and leaves her dogs’ calling cards, lots of it) the room was passable to live in once more. 

I was exhausted, but kind of pumped and ready for more. I turned and looked at the foyer and the living room and felt a bit of a helplessness in its survey. It too was gross, unkempt, disheveled, dirty, and the thought of a college dorm room came to mind, a guy’s dorm room, a freshman. It was daunting in sight, but bravely I began to dig in and began to tackle what Hercules would have turned and runaway away from. Another two hours later and I had done the foyer and half of the living room. I was feeling pretty good about the process and a bit pious at all of this cleanliness thing and sat back to enjoy the novelty of the moment. The air felt cleaner and it even sounded cleaner. I wondered why it took me so long to do this.

There had been a driving motive to my temporary madness and insanity of Sudden House Cleaning Impulsion, or SHCI as its not so well known. We were finally going to be caretakers of the grand kid for the weekend. This was going to be a first time for all. My daughter had asked if we would be up for keeping the kid for a weekend some time back and in the moment of things I had said sure, no problem and it seemed like a great idea at the time. Little Margaret is now ten months old and has never slept a night away from either one or both of her parents, and it seemed a nice time for them to have a break. In the cold light of sober daylight it began to dawn on me that a very mobile, very curious, very precocious little girl was soon going to be prowling around a very non-child proof house, mine, for three days straight. The thought sent me into a small degree of panic and hence the real underlying beginnings of the SHCI episode.

As I cleaned and tidied, I mused at how one comes complacent about why a thing is allowed to remain in a place for decades with no thought about why it got there, how long its going to remain, what purpose did it serve at some time, if any, and if we had to move would I take it with me. Sadly the answer to most of the stuff that needed to be shuffled around to get to the floor, or the walls, or the shelves to be dusted, vacuumed and mopped, was none. It is simply amazing how stuff, junk, unnecessary things slowly infiltrate the house and quietly lay there in stealth mode, cluttering without making noise,  disturbing the fen shui without moving, like the silent fart in a small tightly packed elevator. 
Yup, I was feeling the pain of fifteen years of living in a house in the country where guns are on the coffee table, soiled boots lay by the front door, fishing lures hung by their treble hooks on the shelves. All of these things lay cemented together with gobs of dog hair, dust, dander, and time.

It is an amazing thing that any of us make it to adulthood based on the potential dangers that are inherent in any room, whether Martha Stewart clean or not. For a newly walking child a corner of a table, the brick ledge of the fireplace hearth, uncovered electrical plugs and their cords, the myriad of delights for a child that await it behind every cabinet door especially the cleaning products like clorox and such, it is all a time bomb of potential disasters waiting to happen. The obvious stuff is easy to spot as pitfalls but it is the small things that are the most frightening.

As I methodically made my way around the living room, the guns were put away first, then I began to question and rate the danger of the remaining stuff. No one can perfectly save a child from all of the dangers it will face in its life but the removal of tumble weeds of dog hair, legs of unknown insects, tacks, shirt pins, plastic bags, and the best, a box of razor points for deer hunting was a starting point. 

I can’t help but think back on my own children and their little boo boos along the way, my efforts to child proof the house, and the constant vigilance against their experiencing any pain or suffering. I tried, but failed to keep them unmarred, unbruised, cut, or totally safe. I did my best but yet they still managed to hurt themselves. Quite often their accidents happened because I had not enough imagination ahead of time to tell them not to do something, like the youngest daughter jumping into the pool backwards and not quite getting away from the edge well enough. In the blink of an eye stuff happens and the next thing you know, you are on the way to the emergency room.  

I have lived for the past several decades now with no small children to worry about and I look around at my house and have to shake my head and will simply have to hope for the best. It is certainly not my plan nor wish to be using any band-aids, CPR techniques, or cold compresses over the weekend. I have covered the hearth with a thick blanket and the floor is now clean enough for a child to play on, and the rest will have to sort out as it happens. Fingers will remain crossed until her parents’ return that no booboo’s happens on our watch. They will come, as they always do, but please, not this time and place.

The other night when the kids and the grand kid were all out here for dinner, and to drop off a crib for her, the baby got very interested in a stuffed animal, an otter, and so was Gracie, the terrier. They played a game of tug of war with it  for a while until finally Margaret was determined to not let the little dog take it away. She stood up and with total deliberation sat right down on the toy, pinning it so that Gracie could not budge it, then looked up quite pleased with herself at such a clever way to solve her problem. We were of course doubled over laughing at this scene and she was curious as to our finding humor in the way she had won the battle of the toy. While I do have some concerns at the enormous responsibility of keeping up with her for the next days, the of wonderment  in witnessing the rapid development of this new little person, who walks and makes her own decisions, laughs with delight, and hugs you like she means it will be a treat that I am looking forward to with an unexpected glee. Grandparent hood, yeah it’s all it’s cracked up to be, and more.