(This is another special posting by Suzy. I hope you enjoy it.)
Spring is well underway and we can hear summer running down the hallway behind us and gaining quickly. Walt’s Mother has been telling us how beautiful the flowering trees are this year. She thinks that it has been one of their more magnificent showings. So I have been chasing Walt outside to take photos of them, which I then tweak a bit before creating stationery for her to use when she writes to her friends.
Spring is the season that energizes us. Everything wants to start fresh and grow with vigor. So we go out with the first soft breezes to ready our gardens. We decide that it is time to tackle that drawer or closet that has been growing more dense and darker for how long? We find ourselves gathering all the gadgets and chemicals that assist in cleaning everything in sight. Anyone picturing little lambs frolicking in the pasture of new, spring green grass? Of course, it never quite works that way.
Our weather turned very early this year and the plants and trees rushed to enjoy the light and warmth, while we people held our breath waiting for the inevitable freeze that would kill the beautiful new growth. We have been slow getting to the yard this year, so when the frost came all we lost was some young leaves on a couple of hydrangea that had been overly eager to grow.
A friend I was talking with this week said she was sorting through clothing that had just been being pushed to the back of her closet for about twenty years. Mother, who has always been very organized about caring for her clothes, finds herself having to look at everything as her body shape has changed with her illness. Before this she had been one of those people who stayed the same her entire adult life. Now she is close to tears over no longer being able to wear so many of the outfits she had so enjoyed creating. For me, this is when I miss not living in a place where the weather is mostly the same all year. Having to pack and store winter weight things to make room for the summer wardrobe is a lot of up and down the stairs. If I could only bring myself to do as Mother and my friend are doing and toss stuff it might not be as wearing. Yes, pun intended.
The most labor intensive and my least favorite is the house cleaning as it is mostly filled with tedious and mind numbing chores. Throughout most of the year I hit vacuuming and dusting with a lick and a promise. But that isn’t enough for spring. In spring it’s time for the old top-to-bottom cleaning. Luckily for those of us contemplating this endeavor, houses today seem a bit easier to keep reasonably clean and our tools to do so have improved. I remember my grandmother beginning at one end of her house and taking everything down. The drapes came down, windows washed with vinegar and newspaper, sills scrubbed. The tracks in the window frame were scrapped of all the old dust, which had become caked on mud. The walls had to be wiped. Then the summer weight curtains would go up. Yes, there were two weights of window coverings. Drapes in the winter lessened the drafts from windows, whereas summer curtains were to allow in soft breezes. In today’s climate controlled homes, the same window covering generally do year round. The furniture was shifted so that the rugs could be rolled, then carted outside, brushed and beaten. The carpet sweeper or vacuum would suffice most of the year, but not in the spring. The rugs needed beaten and aired. Some of the rugs wouldn’t go back down until fall. Those needed to be stored. My grandmother’s house had beautiful hardwood floors. Over the years the floors and woodwork had darkened, but the contrast between the relatively light floors to the darker inlayed borders was very nice. She would clean and wax the floors. I don’t remember the products she used, but I remember it as being a lot of work on hands and knees. One would wash the floor with one rag and wipe them dry with another. Then one would apply hard wax from a tin. This provided one of the bright spots of spring-cleaning. After the wax had dried to a dull haze, it needed to be rubbed until it glistened. To do this she would command anyone she could get hold of to don gym socks and skate. One needs to be inventive when you don’t own a mechanical polisher. Moma told me that she remembered skating with her girlfriend on Grandmom’s and her girlfriend’s mother’s floors each year for as long as they lived in those houses. They moved there when Moma was six. If we were visiting during spring-cleaning Moma and I would put on the socks and continue the tradition.
The furniture, after being brushed, would be covered with the summer slipcovers. In un-air conditioned homes bodies would sweat in the summer. That moisture was to be absorbed by the slip covers rather than the upholstery of the furniture. The slipcovers, after all, could be washed and ironed. Yes, ironed. It was imperative that the pleats at the bottoms be crisp. Slipcovers were often much lighter in color and pattern and would brighten the room as well.
All the shelves in cupboards and cabinets would be emptied and relined with new shelf paper. One of the advances in my mother’s generation was shelf paper impregnated with bug repellent. This delighted Moma when we moved into Southern states. Who knows what it left on the dishes and glasses we used. Defeating bugs was more important than insecticide residue, especially to Moma. She would say that if she ever “flipped completely” it would be caused by some bug. After taking the dishes, glasses, or knick-knacks off shelves, those that weren’t used often would need to be washed before being returned to their places. All the silver would need to be polished. This one did while wearing white cotton gloves so body oils would not be deposited on the silver. I would be perched at the end of the kitchen table with the silver polish and allowed to wipe on the polish before rubbing it off until the silver sparkled. Looking at oneself in the newly polished silver was like looking in a fun house mirror. Too much of that and not paying enough attention to all the swirls in the design could bring a disdainful look from Grandmom.
Moma also had a penchant for spring-cleaning. She was far more conscientious about cleaning than I. She had a day of the week for every household chore: vacuuming, dusting, changing linen, washing, ironing …. Each week one room would be given a bit more careful attention, which would include woodwork and windows. The only time she missed on the windows was if the weather were in a deep freeze as the cleaning liquid turning into ice on the window was counterproductive. Just thinking about this makes me feel that I’m a slacker. What a nasty little secret to admit.
Moma’s cleaning was also enhanced by all the moving we did. Actually, that is my favorite style of spring-cleaning. It is also the jumping off spot for a little booklet Walt and I recently wrote for an extended family member who just married an Air Force Officer. The basic premise is that one contacts a moving company. They come and box up all of your belongings. Then a moving van arrives and all the boxes and your furniture get put into the truck. As they pull away in route for your new house, you take out the cleaning supplies you had hidden in the bathroom so they wouldn’t be packed. You then proceed to clean the empty house. Remember toothpaste in the holes where you had hung pictures. But only if the tooth paste matches the walls. Any detritus left from the cleaning or that you didn’t want to take to your new home can be put at the curb for the next trash pick-up. One then dashes to the car and attempts to arrive at the new place before the moving van. You prep the new place. The van arrives. You unpack and start with a clean house. It is just so much easier to clean an empty house. We have been here almost a dozen years. I’m beginning to think I should empty some of the closest instead of waiting for the next moving van to arrive.
The last word:
Enjoy the season.
Keep your sense of humor.