Thoughts on Cleaning the House

We had a party on the Fourth of July.  (It was great.  Sorry you missed it.)  This means, of course, that we spent all day Saturday and the bulk of Sunday morning preparing the house for the arrival of guests in the afternoon.  The lawn had been mowed on Thursday.  Saturday morning began with a marathon weed-eating session.  We have two acres, lots of trees, a long driveway, several planters, sidewalks, etc.  Weed eating this mo-fo is not a small task.

Since I already carried the stench of one of the original transcontinental railroad track layers after a week under the prairie sun, I tackled the rest of the outdoor chores.  Moving the patio table and chairs, cleaning out coolers in preparation for ice and beer, setting up the slip-n-slide for the young’uns, blowing off the deck and patio, picking up dog poop, etc., etc., ad nauseam, et. al, i.e., e.g., and so on.   Then to the outside windows and doors.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m a perfectionist.  My partner, Susie, is the queen of the day-to-day upkeep of the house.  I, on the other hand, take these tasks far too seriously.  If you ask me to clean the kitchen, I will emerge two hours later from a kitchen that looks like it was just newly installed.  So, cleaning doors and windows extrapolated into a detail job involving a broom, Windex, far too many paper towels, Q-tips, and a bamboo skewer originally intended for grilling kabobs (not enough room here to explain the necessity of the last item).   The Buddhist part of my nature hid behind my inner pragmatist while I (inadvertantly, but resolutely) killed unknown numbers of spiders with the lethal weapon of an ammonia-soaked environmentally-unfriendly disposable towel.

Then to the inside, and I shant bore you with details with which you are likely all too familar.  Dusting, vacuuming, more Windex, etc., etc., ad nauseam, et. al., i.e., e.g., and so on.

Here is the interesting thing, and the point of this diatribe (I DO have one).  I did all of this with immense joy.  I physically felt really good, which helps.  And I usually find some modicum of joy in menial tasks such as these (the Buddhist part of my nature).  Also, I receive an inordinate amount of pleasure in a crisp, clean, neat little house.  But cleaning the house is a different experience based upon the event it precedes, I have discovered.

For instance, why was deep cleaning for a party a joy, but cleaning for my mother to come visit is often fraught with anxiety and pressure?  I anticipate both events with equal levels of happiness, and  I receive ample house admiration in each instance.  But, my mother’s compliments often feel more like a validation of my very personhood — my issue, not hers.  Wait, did I just hit on something here?  Does cleaning house for my mother’s arrival contain elements of my value as a person, my essential goodenoughness?  With my friends, face it, I’m just showing off.  With my mother, I’m showing up, who I am, how I live.

I originally learned how to live in my mother’s house, naturally.  I learned her value system of cleanliness.  Perhaps the act of cleaning before she arrives feels somewhat like a test.  How well did I learn what she tried to instill?  Now, mind you, it’s a test administered by me, not her.  As with most things, I proctor my own life exam.  I’m not quite sure how to completely stop grading myself when it comes to my mother (if anyone has figured this out, COMMENT BELOW PLEASE!).  But, for the party at least, I give myself an “A.”

Should have taken pictures.  So I could send them to my mother, of course.

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